Coronavirus in China: How Dangerous Is the New Lung Disease Really?
The corona virus in China continues to spread: the number of infected people has increased exponentially in recent days. A first infection has now also been detected in the USA – experts fear that the occurrence of lung disease is becoming more and more likely in Europe too.
Three more people fell victim to the new lung disease in China. A total of nine deaths have now been proven, as China’s State Council reported on Wednesday. The number of known coronavirus infections increased by more than 100 to 440 cases compared to the previous day.
With the current wave of travel to the Chinese New Year next Saturday, the risk of transmission of the virus is growing. Hundreds of millions of Chinese are on the move during the largest annual migration.
Health experts warned of particularly infectious patients who could spread the virus faster. There were also cases of so-called “super spreaders” in China during the Sars pandemic, which killed around 800 people in 2002/2003.
The new illness has become an omnipresent topic among people in China. Memories of the Sars outbreak were awakened. The country had practically come to a standstill during the pandemic, and schools remained closed for weeks.
An unusually large number of people wearing protective masks were out and about in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday. The masks were already sold out in some shops. Families discussed whether planned trips should be canceled over the holidays.
According to Christian Drosten, a virus researcher from Berlin, analyzes of the genome of the new diseases have shown that it is a Sars virus variant. “It is the same type of virus, only in a different variant,” said the director of the Institute of Virology at the Charité in Berlin. The main differences are in the proteins with which the virus docks onto human cells.
Sars viruses are among the corona viruses that often cause harmless diseases such as colds. However, pathogens of dangerous respiratory diseases such as Mers are also included.
The first infections of the new disease in China at the end of December are associated with a meanwhile closed fish market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where wild animals were also sold. In the meantime, the virus has spread to large parts of China and abroad.
A first case of the new lung disease was detected in the United States on Tuesday. It was a man who returned to the west coast metropolis of Seattle after a trip to the Chinese city of Wuhan on January 15, the CDC said on Tuesday (local time). The disease had previously been diagnosed in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.
Experts fear the first cases in Europe soon
The man in his 30s had not noticed any symptoms on the return trip, but then went to a hospital for an examination, it said. His condition is good. There is very little risk that he could infect other people. The authorities are in the process of compiling a list of the people with whom the man has had contact.
Experts had previously said that the introduction of the new lung disease to Europe was becoming more likely. The World Health Organization (WHO) has convened its emergency committee because of the lung disease. The experts should advise on Wednesday. The EU Commission is also planning a meeting to assess the risks from the new lung disease. According to a spokesman, the Health Security Committee is due to meet on Thursday.
To protect against lung disease, neighboring North Korea closed its borders for foreign tourists for the time being, according to travel agencies. From Wednesday, North Korea will no longer allow tourists to enter, the Chinese-based agencies Young Pioneer Tours and Koryo Tours said on their websites. There was initially no official confirmation from North Korea. So far, nothing has been known about an introduced case of lung disease caused by a novel coronavirus.
North Korea had temporarily closed its borders several times in the past for fear of the introduction of viral diseases, for example in the case of the Sars virus in 2003 or against Ebola in 2014.
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