What is known about the new and mysterious epidemic

The new virus, from China, has already spread to other countries in Asia and has claimed its first fatality.

Woman wearing a mask.

Woman wearing a mask. / Photo: Pxhere - Reference Image

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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Leer en español: Lo que se sabe de la nueva y misteriosa epidemia

The little that is known about the virus is that it comes from the SARS family - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - and that those affected suffer from symptoms similar to those of pneumonia.

The rapid spread of the virus, which in less than 10 days had more than 40 people infected in China and currently, less than a month after the first case (December 31, 2019), expanded to Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, and Thailand, so the World Health Organization (WHO) is on alert. Given the little that is known about the mysterious epidemic but the level with which it has come to attack in these countries, the organization has warned the likelihood of this outbreak repeating the 2002 health crisis in China, when SARS spread further from 37 countries and infected more than 8,000 people.

At least 17 years ago, when that outbreak occurred, China was forced to admit that it had a weak health system after it had tried to ignore the magnitude and not give the real figures to the international community. At that time, WHO was responsible for demanding that the Chinese government keep the world informed about the true implications of SARS.

On this occasion, the same organization has alerted the global network of hospitals from the beginning about the spread of a new possible epidemic. He is currently working hand in hand with scientists to determine the possible scopes, diagnosis, epidemiology, and clinical treatments.

However, in this case, what most keeps researchers uncertain is the possible routes of transmission. This type of virus is spread through animals to humans, as has happened with swine and bird flu. But this time the possibility that it is transmitted only among humans is being determined.

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The characteristics of this type of outbreak are similar to pneumonia, including breathing difficulties, fever, muscle pain, and malaise.

WHO has stated that more first-hand information is needed to be able to distinguish with greater certainty where it comes from and how to proceed. However, it said that having managed to detect it early will allow other countries to be prepared for the possible arrival of the virus.

For now, the virus is informally named after Wuhan, as the city where it began. The organization has not given specific recommendations for travelers and, on the contrary, said that it "discourages the application of travel or trade restrictions in China based on the information currently available." Meanwhile, it did call on the authorities to avoid the concealment of information as it is necessary to be able to know more about the outbreak and said the world must remain alert.

Unlike the precarious health system that China had years ago, WHO said China currently has great public health capabilities and resources to respond effectively to respiratory outbreaks.

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