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What do we know about the new mysterious virus spreading in China?


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Several East Asian countries have sounded the alarm, fearing a new mysterious virus has emerged in China. China has officially announced the infection of 300 people with the virus, a new strain of the Coronavirus and similar to that causing SARS. Injuries have also been reported in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. The virus infection is able to pass from person to person, raising fears of its spread globally with travelers celebrating Chinese New Year. What do we know so far about this virus?

At least six people have died so far in China after being injured With a mysterious new virus The virus that causes SARS, along with 300 casualties recorded, Which raises fears of an outbreak as the Chinese New Year approaches.

Cases have also appeared in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. AndSeveral Asian countries and the United States imposed Airport control for passengers arriving from the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is 11 million, is the epicenter of the epidemic.

Here’s what we know about the virus:

New virus

This disease is a new strain of the Coronavirus family, which includes a large number of viruses. These viruses may cause harmless human diseases such as the common cold, but they are also a source of more serious diseases such as SARS (acute respiratory syndrome).

This virus is close to the epidemic that caused SARS in 2002 and 2003 and resulted in 744 deaths worldwide (349 in mainland China and 299 in Hong Kong) out of 8,096 cases, according to the World Health Organization.

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Genetically speaking, “there are 80% of the similarities between the two viruses,” said Professor Arnault Fontane, in charge of the Epidemiology Unit for New Diseases at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, to Agence France-Presse. Both viruses cause acute respiratory infections.

China informed the international scientific community about the genetic sequence of the new virus.

His infection is transmitted between humans

On Monday, the World Health Organization considered an animal to be the “most likely primary source” of the virus “with limited transmission between humans through close contact.”

The virus was detected in Wuhan (central China) in December by patients working at a wholesale market for fish and seafood, which closed on January 1.

China has confirmed by world scientist Jung Nanshan, a influential member of the National Health Commission, that the virus is spreading among people.

Doctor Natalie McDermott of Kings College University in London says the virus is spreading through very small droplets that spread into the air when sneezing or coughing.

Doctors at the University of Hong Kong published a study on the outbreak of the virus, estimating the likely number of infections in Wuhan at 1,333. This number is similar to the cases that Imperial College London estimated last week.

Both estimates exceed official figures indicating about 300 cases, with 922 patients being monitored in Chinese hospitals.

It seems less dangerous than SARS

The symptoms of this epidemic are less serious than those of SARS. “The severity of this virus is less than SARS,” says Fontanet.

According to the Wuhan authorities, at least 25 patients among the 200 people injured in the city have left hospital.

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“It is difficult to compare this epidemic with SARS,” said scientist Jung, who helped assess the scale of the SARS epidemic in 2003. “It is mild and the lungs are not affected as is the case with SARS.”

For his part, Professor Antoine Flaho, Director of the World Health Institute at the University of Geneva, told Agence France-Presse, “But this is of greater concern” because individuals will be able to travel before the symptoms are exposed.

Hundreds of millions of people will travel in China to celebrate with their families on New Year’s Day, which begins Saturday.

“Wuhan is a major center and the level of vigilance must remain high because the approaching Chinese New Year celebrations mean traveling,” said doctor Jeremy Farrar, director of the British Wellcome Trust.

Is it a global health emergency?

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) is holding an emergency meeting to determine whether a “global health emergency” should be declared, which happened with the outbreak of SARS. This is only used in the event of more serious epidemics.

The WHO did not use this characterization except in rare cases of outbreaks of epidemics requiring strong global action, such as the H1N1 flu in 2009, the Zika virus in 2016, and Ebola fever that struck West Africa between 2014 and 2016 and the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2018.

For its part, Beijing announced on Tuesday that it classifies the new epidemic in the same category with SARS. Isolation becomes necessary for people who have been diagnosed with the virus. Quarantine can also be applied.

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/ AFP

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