Wuhan, China is ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak. As of this episode, there are 30,834 cases and 634 deaths.
The World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), national health agencies, doctors, researchers, and others are working feverishly to find a treatment regime and cure. Amid the outbreak and, in some cases, panic, it’s only reasonable to establish some facts and set a foundation.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are zoonotic meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.
What we are currently encountering is a novel Coronavirus (nCoV) that officials identify as 2019-nCoV which is a new strain undetected prior to the outbreak in Wuhaun in December.
99% of all the global cases and new cases are in China. Outside of China, the novel Coronavirus is in 27 countries with new cases in Sri Lanka, Belgium, Spain, the UK, Finland, Sweden, Cambodia, and Nepal. The countries outside of China that have the highest number of cases are Japan (at 45), Thailand (at 25), Singapore (at 28). Only one person outside of Mainland China has died from the novel Coronavirus. There are no cases on the continent of Africa.
Now, we have established that the coronavirus is a family of viruses that is relayed from animals to humans and this is a new strain of the coronavirus that has not been seen prior to the most recent outbreak. We also know that 2019-nCoV is primarily contained in China. Many of the cases outside of China are from those who have traveled from China and/or from those in close contact with someone who has returned from China. For instance, a husband and wife.
Take a deep breath. We’ve seen this before.
MERS: The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a part of the coronavirus family. MERS-CoV is primarily found in the Middle East and was first identified in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. The traditional symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Pneumonia can also be present but not always. The transmission of MERS occurs because there is direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels in the Arabian Peninsula. Additionally, human-to-human transmission does not occur unless there is close contact such as providing unprotected care to an infected patient. 80% of human cases have been reported by Saudi Arabia. The risk to others outside the Middle East is due to travel and the World Health Organization is still alert to this factor.
As of November 2019, 2,494 confirmed cases of MERS exist with a fatality rate of 34.4% and is found in many of the same countries that 2019-nCoV is located.
As it stands, no vaccine or specific treatment is available for MERS-CoV. Regular hand washing is recommended along with not consuming raw or undercooked animal products.
Let’s step back even further to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak.
SARS: SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was first discovered in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002. Patient zero was a man admitted to the hospital with a high fever, dry cough, myalgia which is muscle pain, and a mild sore throat. Over the next four days, he developed breathing difficulties and required a ventilator. He died 17 days later. Healthcare workers who cared for this initial patient developed similar symptoms.
Like the 2019-nCoV and MERS-CoV, SARS is caused by a strain of the coronavirus although the SARS strain was not particularly dangerous to humans. SARS was also transmitted from animal to human as well. Whereas MERS was transmitted via a camel, SARS was transmitted via civet cat found in Africa, Southern Europe, and Asia.
SARS also begins with cold and flu-like symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, dry cough, chills, muscle aches, headaches and, specific to SARS, occasional diarrhea. It is spread through droplets that entered the air when someone with the disease coughed, sneezed or talked and those droplets could reside on surfaces. SARS was also spread through close personal contact, such as caring for someone with SARS.
Globally, the WHO received reports of SARS from 29 countries and regions; 8096 persons with SARS resulted in 774 deaths which is a fatality rate of 9.6%.
When SARS first surfaced, no specific tests were available. Now several laboratory tests can help detect the virus. However, there is no effective treatment for SARS.
No known transmission of SARS has occurred anywhere in the world since 2004. In January of 2004, the CDC banned the importation of civets into the US. The ban is currently still in effect.
So, where are we?
2019-nCoV is a new strain of the coronavirus. We have seen previous strains of the coronavirus in the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemics. All three are from the coronavirus family which create cold and flu-like symptoms and are passed from animals to humans and has been transmitted from an infected person to a non-infected person.
The MERS and SARS outbreaks had a higher fatality rate at 34% and 10%, respectively, whereas the current novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has a fatality rate of around 2%. There is not a treatment for the 2019-nCoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS. For all the outbreaks the recommendation is to wash your hands and don’t put them in your mouth, eyes, nose, etc.
MERS cases are still occurring whereas there have been no new SARS cases since 2004. A travel alert is still active for MERS whereas several countries have banned the importation of the civet cat which is the animal that can transmit SARS.
So, I said all that to say, relax. This is simply a new strain from within the family of viruses that the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and other health agencies have seen and managed. Being that the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is within the same strain, it carries similar characteristics of prior outbreaks.
No, there is not a cure for 2019-nCoV. At the same time, there is not a cure for MERS-CoV or SARS either. However, this new virus is no longer an unknown. There are laboratory tests under development to detect it, and we have prevention measures which consist of diligent hand washing.
There is uncertainty that health officials in China are telling the truth about the number of infected, sick, recovered, and dead victims. The link to this story is below.
You may be thinking, “what about the swine flu and bird flu epidemics?” I purposefully left them out of the mix. True, the swine flu and bird flu can come from animals. But the WHO and CDC do no show that the swine and bird flu are within the coronavirus family. Because the hot topic is the coronavirus, I chose to only focus on the recent viruses within that family.
I truly hope you’ve found this episode informative and helpful. We don’t quite have a conclusion to this story although when applicable, we will let you know what finally happened. However, I felt we needed to add levity to this issue and present it in context with what we’ve encountered previously.
Thank you for sharing your valuable time with me. Subscribe and leave a review for us wherever you listen to this podcast. Have a wonderful week and see you next time. Bye.
2/9/2020: Two people outside of China have died due to 2019-nCoV
3/5/2020: 341 people outside of Mainland China have died of COVID-19. 1,684 people, outside of Mainland China have recovered.
3/15/2020: 7,129 people outside of mainland China have recovered from COVID-19. The hotbed of cases outside of China reside in Italy (21,157) where 1,966 people have recovered and 1,441 people have died.
3/15/2020: The place I live now has close to 100 cases. The number of cases have jumped by 33% in the span of two days. Of course, that number is expected to rise as more cases are discovered. We are basically staying home and away from large crowds to keep the infections down.
Life has not stopped as the press enjoys to report. Life has simply slowed down. We're forced to spend more time at home and catch up on projects we've been working on.
It will be fascinating to see the imprint this public health epidemic leaves on our everyday life. Companies are forcing record numbers of employees to work from home/work remotely, children are being taught via digital learning/online classes, governments are revising their public/community meeting guidelines. In a vein of optimism, I'm glad that in this time in our history, we have the technology to accommodate these changes in our daily life.
Legislatively, we've halted the General Assembly sessions indefinitely and elections have been postponed until May 19.
The goal is to keep infections down while also ensuring hospitals are not overwhelmed. Please keep our first responders, medical personnel, and their families in your prayers are they are on the front lines of this illness.
Thank you for listening to the podcast and for reading my updates. Talk to you soon!
GIS map of COVID-19: https://gisanddata.mapsarcgiscom/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740
CDC: COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
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