Published: Thu, January 23, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

What Started Coronavirus Outbreak in China? Snakes Most Likely Source, Experts Believe

What Started Coronavirus Outbreak in China? Snakes Most Likely Source, Experts Believe

World Health Organization officials announced Thursday that they will not be declaring a public health emergency of worldwide concern, or PHEIC, in response to the coronavirus outbreak in China, despite the fact that isolated cases have surfaced in several other countries. That appeared to be an over-reaction, since no restrictions were placed on trucks carrying supplies into the city, although many Chinese have strong memories of shortages in the years before the country's recent economic boom. Similar measures are being rolled out in neighbouring cities Huanggang and Ezhou.

Since first being detected late past year, the virus has spread to several Chinese cities and to other countries, which include Taiwan, Japan and the United States. The health commission in northern Hebei Province said in a statement that an 80-year-old man diagnosed with the new virus died on Wednesday. The first case outside China was detected in Thailand on 14 January, in a woman who had travelled to the country from China.

Researchers say the virus spreading through China is in the same family as SARS and closest to one found in bats.

Analysts have predicted the reported cases will continue to multiply. All 17 deaths linked with the disease have been in China, and all of them occurred in people with compromised immune systems due to underlying health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. People's Daily China reports that no residents of Wuhan will be allowed to leave the city.

There are no medicines or vaccines developed specifically to tackle the Wuhan virus.

Hajdu said it is too early to determine what additional measures may be required.

The central M+ mall, which normally buzzes with shoppers in the days before the holiday, was open, but all the shops were shuttered and closed with only one vehicle in the auto park. The Civil Aviation Administration of China said 288 flights had been canceled as of 11:30am.

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Images obtained from inside Wuhan following the closure showed long lines and empty shelves at supermarkets, as residents stocked up for what could be weeks of relative isolation.

The Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University issued an appeal for donations of masks and protective clothing to alumni.

A World Health Organization team is already "on the ground in China" and "working with local experts and officials to investigate the outbreak and get more information", revealed Dr. Ghebreyesus, saying the committee will have more to add in the meeting on Thursday.

Adhanom said the global organization remains concerned about the outbreak in China, and understands that some in the region of the country that has been particularly affected already consider it a health emergency.

David L Robertson from the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research in the United Kingdom, told PTI, " There's very likely to be an intermediate non-bat host which would have picked up the virus from bats.

The outbreak came at a particularly mobile time for Chinese people, with millions on the move to be with loved ones for the lunar new year, so it was inevitable that the virus would spread.

However, the ministry noted that there was no evidence that the virus had spread to anyone in Singapore. Preliminary research suggested the virus was passed on to humans from snakes, but government medical adviser Zhong Nanshan has also identified badgers and rats as possible sources.

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