A deadly yet mysterious virus which seems to have originated at the Chinese city of Wuhan has spread beyond the confines of the country as various countries brace themselves for the potential of an outbreak, including Egypt.
According to an official ‘situation’ report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus’ outbreak has reached the US, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand through a number of confirmed cases.
Considering the number of affected jumped from 1 to 440 in less than three weeks, the World Health Organization is to decide on declaring it a global health emergency on Wednesday.
The Emergency Committee on the new #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) meets today to ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage it https://t.co/Qtsxqkr7xi pic.twitter.com/aC8NYUkS9h
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 22, 2020
HOW DID IT START
Chinese authorities noted 44 cases of a pneumonia-like illness on December 31 which was then communicated to the WHO national office.
Days later, the National Health Commission China associated the outbreak of the virus to exposure within a popular seafood market in Wuhan City, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
Since then, the market has been closed by authorities for environmental sanitation and disinfection and other markets have been inspected by authorities.
Almost 20 days later, the virus had spread to other countries through private travelling individuals whose health status had been unconfirmed.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT IT
The virus – which is also officially known as 2019-nCoV – is considered a strain of the coronavirus.
The WHO defines the latter as “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases”.
Two well-known strains of the coronavirus, which have caused outbreaks more than 10 years ago were Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers).
This particular 2020 strain manifests itself in the form of pneumonia and flu-like symptoms, affecting those with poor health and an already weakened immune system the most.
It has affected 13 provinces in China, with noted cases in Beijing and Shanghai where large activities of trade and travel operate on a daily basis.
COULD IT REACH EGYPT?
With the celebrations of Chinese New Year underway, many Chinese citizens and expats are known to travel inside and outside the country, visiting family particularly in remote villages and smaller cities.
Despite this, Chinese authorities have instructed citizens to not travel to and from Wuhan where the coronavirus is known to have originated.
However, as there have been already confirmed cases across seas, namely in the US, the outbreak is expected to reach other countries as well although governments are taking preventive action.
According to Daily New Egypt, Egypt has braced itself in case of contact with confirmed cases. Instructions have been communicated to give special medical attention to travelers from China, namely Wuhan, as well as the possibility of placing them in immediate quarantine.
The local news outlet also reported that local hospitals have been notified of the virus’ symptoms and that the Ministry of Health is preparing isolation departments in fever hospitals in case of an outbreak.
Currently, there are no direct flights from Cairo to Wuhan, but there are several between the Egyptian and Chinese capitals.
Moreover, more than half a million Chinese tourists visit the country, especially for sightseeing and touristic activities.