The death toll rises to over 200 as the 2019-nCoV of the coronavirus family wreaks a global path of havoc. China alone counts over 9,500 confirmed cases of this new virus strand while over a dozen other countries, including the United States, have each confirmed a handful of isolated human-to-human transmitted cases as well. While the cases in the United States seem to be located near the west coast and in major travel hubs including California, Washington, Arizona, and Chicago, there is a very real possibility of the virus spreading like wildfire through the United States, especially with the return of international students to universities for the start of the spring semester. The Missouri S&T campus is aware of this hazard and has been monitoring the student body following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The director of S&T Student Health Services, Dr. Dennis Goodman, urges any student, faculty, or staff having traveled to Wuhan, China, since January 1st, 2020 and matching symptoms associated with the new coronavirus to visit Student Health Services for testing. At this point in time only one Missouri S&T student has been tested for the virus after reporting symptoms consistent with those of the new coronavirus, but subsequent testing revealed the student was not carrying the virus. Missouri S&T Student Health continues to monitor the situation closely.
In addition to the 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus family includes the Middle East respiratory syndrome and the SARS virus which left 774 people dead during a massive outbreak in 2003. With coronaviruses sharing a deadly reputation, the World Health Organization has declared this most recent outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”. Most concern lies in the anticipated effects of the 2019-nCoV in nations with health systems unequipped to deal with such an outbreak. Many countries are now treading a dangerous line as they decide on travel and trade restrictions to prevent further spread considering the virus is still majorly concentrated in China, while keeping in mind the impact this could have on the economy. Hong Kong has imposed travel limitations with the China mainland. The United States has increased screening measures at various ports of entry including the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, the Los Angeles International Airport in California, the Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois, and others, though incubation can last over a week leaving screening ineffective. Russia has announced the closing of its shared border with China. The CDC has placed Wuhan, China in a level three travel warning (the highest level), but other parts of China remain at a level 1 travel warning. The impacts can already be seen as hundreds of shops temporarily close in response to reduced travel.
The Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced that China intends to prevent the virus from any further spread outside of its borders and Jack Ma, a chinese billionaire and philanthropist, has donated $14.4 million to accelerate the development of a 2019-nCoV vaccine, provide treatment for those infected, and prevent further spread. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has also donated $5 million for the same purposes. A vaccine will mean a giant leap in preventing further spread as cases of human-to-human transfer with small exposure times have been reported, becoming a source of worry in the medical community. Scientists around the world are adamantly attempting putting their minds together to develop one, however even once a vaccine is found, clinical trials will take over a year to prove the vaccine safe and effective.
In the meantime, the World Health Organization suggests avoiding contact with people exhibiting signs of a respiratory illness and following general hygiene as you would for any other illness such as washing hands often, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, disinfecting surfaces, and wearing a surgical mask.
Patient relocated to a hospital in Wuhan, China. Credit to The New York Times and Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images