Mon. May 16th, 2022

A seafood market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China is the origin of a new virus strain, called the 2019 novel coronavirus, which has infected over 1975 people and killed at least 56 so far. It is reported that over 8000 people are under observation for the virus. The outbreak has spread rapidly to countries around the world, affecting Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Nepal, Vietnam, Malasia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, the United States, Australia and France so far. All cases have been linked to people who visited Wuhan. Most of the people killed were older men with pre-existing health issues. Symptoms linked to the new virus strain include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and fever.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) website, “coronaviruses are a large family of viruses with some causing less-severe disease, such as the common cold, and other more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS.” This new strain of the virus can be transmitted from person to person through droplets. People infected with the virus originally were originally diagnosed with pneumonia. On New Year’s Eve, the WHO were informed of the cluster of pneumonia-like illnesses in the Wuhan area and Chinese authorities confirmed on Jan. 7 that it was a new virus strain.

To keep the outbreak from spreading further, public transportation has been shut down and car travel restricted in Wuhan since Jan. 23, leaving 11 million people stuck in the infected city. As of Jan. 24, the travel restrictions were expanded by the Chinese government to 15 neighboring cities in the province, widening the people affected to 57 million. This lockd-own preceded increased travel originally expected for Lunar New Year celebrations on the 25. The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar. Celebrations were cancelled in Beijing, Hong Kong and other major cities as well. A marathon in Hong Kong scheduled for Feb. 8 and 9 was also cancelled due to the outbreak.

In addition, Hong Kong officials have declared an emergency response level and have closed schools until at least mid-February. China has also banned all wildlife trade until the outbreak ends. In interviews with the New York Times, some Wuhan residents said they were angry about the lockdown. No information has been released about how long the shut down will last.

Wuhan hospitals have been inundated with people fearful that they have contracted the virus, which resulted in people getting turned away due to long lines. To make matters worse, many hospitals in the city have run out of medical supplies. Some people of Wuhan have stepped up as volunteers to help health workers with the outbreak and the government just announced they will release emergency funds to bring in needed supplies. In addition, a new 1,000 bed hospital is being built outside of Wuhan which should be ready for patients by early February.

As of Jan. 24, the WHO has not declared this outbreak a public health emergency, citing that it is too early to declare it as such, though they will reevaluate the situation in the coming days. They define public health emergencies as “an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition, caused by bioterrorism, epidemic or pandemic disease or (a) novel and highly fatal infectious agent or biological toxin that poses a substantial risk of a significant number of human facilities or incidents or permanent or long-term disability.” So far, the new virus has a death rate of about 4% of people infected.

As of Jan. 24, the WHO has not declared this outbreak a public health emergency, citing that it is too early to declare it as such…

The people of China have sought out preemptive measures, including wearing masks over their mouths, though health officials say the most effective measure is sanitation. So many people have bought masks in the past couple weeks that many stores have sold out of them. Online retailers which sell masks sold out as well, even with an exorbitant price inflation. Stock prices of some mask-producing companies rose recently though markets fell in much of Asia due to a fear of tourism and the impact on the economy by the virus in the coming months.

The United States became linked to the outbreak through a Seattle-based man who visited the Wuhan area recently. He sought treatment immediately when he began to feel the symptoms. The CDC has since gotten involved and the man is still hospitalized for both his sake and to stop the spread of the virus.

Even though screenings have started in U.S. airports like Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International, San Francisco International and New York JFK, there is the possibility of another case of the infection in Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Morning News reported on the 23 that a Texan A&M University student recently traveled from Wuhan in the last two weeks. The student went to an emergency room with a cough and congestion, worried that it might be symptoms of the new virus strain. It is not confirmed yet whether the student definitively has the new coronavirus.

As of the Jan. 24, a second confirmed case was discovered in Chicago. The woman in her 60s returned from China on Jan. 13 and only started to feel symptoms recently. She has been hospitalized and anyone she came in contact with is being tested for the virus. In reaction to the news, people of Chicago’s Chinatown canceled their Lunar New Year’s celebrations and some stores have sold out of face masks.

Additionally, a third confirmed case was announced the 26 in Orange County, California. This patient also recently traveled from Wuhan. There are over 60 more possible cases being monitored across the country.

There were 14 suspected cases in the U.K. though all were cleared by Jan. 24. Edinburgh University’s Head of Infection Medicine, Professor Juergen Hass, said an outbreak in the U.K. is very likely due to a large population of Chinese residents and students. “At the University of Edinburgh we have more than 2,000 students from China and they are always coming and going back to China,” Hass stated.

With the virus continuing to spread, the race is on for a vaccine. Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Plymouth Meeting announced on Jan. 23 that it has received a $9 million dollar grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus. J. Joseph Kim, president and CEO of Inovio, said that coronaviruses do not have a season, so an outbreak can continue for months or years. He also said the company will use DNA sequencing to create a vaccine.

Inovio’s stock increased almost 12% in trading after the grant announcement. This is the second time Inovio has received a grant from CEPI, the first being a $56 million dollar award in April 2018 to develop vaccines for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS; of the coronavirus family) and Lassa fever. Kim announced that human tests of the development of the vaccine could begin “before early summer” since animal-testing has already begun.

The CDC has issued a level 4 travel warning on Jan. 23, its highest level, advising people to avoid all nonessential travel to China. Until a vaccine is created, people are urged to be vigilant about hand washing and sanitation.

West Chester University has almost 120 international students on campus and considering we are only about an hour away from the Philadelphia International Airport, the outbreak coming to our area is very likely. West Chester University should prepare now for the possibility of an outbreak affecting our campus. Preparation is key to ensure this virus does not cripple our area.

Maria Marabito is a third year English major with a minor in literature and diverse cultures.

2 thoughts on “Coronavirus 101”
  1. Saying that it is “very likely” that we will have a Coronavirus outbreak on our campus is very misleading. What are your sources for this? Given that we have yet to have any cases in the tristate area, I don’t see where you are getting this from. The vast majority of suspected cases in the US are currently in quarantine. Obviously people should be aware of this disease, but I don’t see the point in you making generalized statement with no factual basis.

    1. Completely agree with Ashley. It’s a ridiculous statement and of course the “120 international students on campus” are ALREADY ON CAMPUS taking classes. They are no more likely than any other WCU student to contract and spread any disease. Please do make blanket or untrue statements regarding international students that could be used to encourage or justify xenophobia.

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