The Chinese government has confirmed that the mysterious new virus strain that has infected over 200 people in the Asian country, plus Japan, Thailand, and South Korea, can be transmitted human to human. This means the virus can spread even faster, making it far more dangerous.
The respiratory virus, thought to be a novel Coronavirus and so dubbed 2019-nCoV, was first reported in the city of Wuhan in December 2019. It is related to the infamous MERS and SARS, as well as the common cold and has pneumonia-like symptoms. The number of infected people has skyrocketed in the last few days and so far three people have died of it.
After visiting the city Monday, director of the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease Zhong Nanshan told Chinese state media that not only had two members of the family of a patient been infected, but 14 medical staff who had been in contact with another carrier had also contracted the virus, which confirmed human-to-human transmission was possible.
“The key to controlling the spread of the disease now is about preventing the emergence of a super-spreader [of the virus],” Zhong told the South China Morning Post, referring to infected patients who quickly help spread the virus, especially among medical workers.
Official reports state that 224 people have been infected so far but statistical analysis based on the infected both within and outside of China, suggests that the real number of infected people in Wuhan alone is between five and 11 times higher. The virus has been reported in three people outside of China, all of whom had traveled from Wuhan.
Authorities in China and the World Health Organization are monitoring the development of the situation to keep the virus from spreading further. Experts cannot predict how the situation will evolve, as it is too soon to tell.
“We are in the early stages of this outbreak. There has been some excellent and very speedy work by authorities in China and the research results have been made available to the world very rapidly indeed,” Dr Mike Turner, Director of Science, Wellcome, said in a statement to the Science Media Center.
“This is making it easier to monitor the spread of the disease. Despite which, estimates of the size of any outbreak are very difficult to predict at this early stage but it is clearly still spreading. We are all more concerned than we were three days ago.”
Given the importance of Wuhan as a travel hub in China, with a population of over 11 million people in the urban area, and the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities on January 25, attention levels must remain high.
[H/T: The Times]