The Coronavirus Epidemic

(Umar Bin Adnan, Karachi)

On December 29th 2019, four individuals who all had a case of pneumonia showed up in a hospital in Wuhan. All of these four individuals also worked in the same food market in the city. A member of the coronavirus family that had never been previously encountered was suspected to be the cause behind this case of pneumonia. On 25th January 2020, the first case of the virus infecting an individual was reported in the United States of America. Cases of the virus have now been reported in multiple cities around the globe and nearly 362 of the 17,486 reported cases have ended up claiming the life of the unfortunate victim of the virus. On the 23rd of January this year, the WHO declared the infection caused by the virus as a public health emergency of international concern. In this article, we’ll discuss in detail about the symptoms, nature, the possible remedy of the virus and why it is considered to be an international problem.

Pneumonia of “unknown cause” is the biggest symptom of the viral infection however, there are also multiple other symptoms of this particular coronavirus include dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, fever and respiratory distress. Also, blood tests show that the patients often have lower amounts of white blood cells meaning that the immune system of the patients becomes weak and cannot respond and combat the virus properly resulting in the symptoms mentioned before.

To know about the nature of this virus, first it is important to know what coronaviruses actually are, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause infections in mammals and birds while also causing respiratory diseases in humans and they can prove to be lethal in certain cases. It is hypothesized that this particular coronavirus was transmitted by a bat to a snake and since snakes are often consumed for food in China, it found its way into a human host. This virus spreads through human contact and hence, it spread out from one host to multiple hosts. However, it is important to keep in mind that this hypothesis has its fair share of criticisms. Firstly, this virus usually only infects mammals and birds, snakes being reptiles are less likely to be infected by this virus. Secondly, the study that first brought up this theory has weak evidence to support its claim. So we don’t know for sure how this virus got transmitted into humans however, we do know that it is different from the viruses that cause other major respiratory diseases such as SARS and MERS (viruses that caused multiple respiratory diseases in 2002 and 2012 in Asia and the Middle East). This was confirmed as the entire genome of this virus was sequenced and published concluding that this novel coronavirus was an entirely new species never discovered before.

While different possible remedies including traditional Chinese medicine as well as proposed modern medical techniques have been proposed, there has been no confirmed remedy to this virus. Antibiotics cannot be used to treat this viral infection as they are only lethal against bacteria and not viruses. Therefore, there is no confirmed drug or vaccine that can annihilate this novel coronavirus.

There is a lot of concern regarding the outbreak of this new virus and as a result, it has become an international crisis. Many countries have evacuated their citizens from China and the whole country is under strict health regulations. Educational institutes have been closed and public transportation has been banned to minimize the number of infected people. While many countries have taken their students out of China, countries such as Pakistan have not responded to the Pakistani students studying in China. This is a point of great concern for the Pakistani community in China who are now stranded in a country going through an outbreak of a deadly virus. With all these facts considered, it is not false to claim that the novel coronavirus and the respiratory disorders it causes is a growing health concern for the entire world however, if we consider the advancements that science and technology have made in the past century, it is also not false to claim that scientists and doctors will hopefully find a remedy for this novel coronavirus in the near future.

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