Conditions are worsening in Wuhan, central China, as emergency response measures are in full swing to stem the tide of what might prove to be a global health emergency. In about a month since news about a new strain of coronavirus escaped from the Communist country, the number of infected is spiking upward with more reported deaths.
The newest coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese province and city of Wuhan in Hubei, a city with four times as many residents as Chicago, Illinois. The pathogen spreads easily by human contact and produces symptoms similar to an upper respiratory condition such as pneumonia.
On Thursday, January 23, 2020, 17 people (most of them elderly, aged 60 and above) in Wuhan and Hubei province to the north as of late January 23 had been reported killed from the disease. At that time, 617 cases of this novel respiratory infection had been logged in China.
Today, Friday, January 24, Chinese sources have disclosed the new numbers after only 24 hours: 850 diagnosed in China and at least 26 dead.
Suspected as Ground Zero for this viral tide are the wholesale markets in Wuhan where raw fish are sold next to dead animals, creating conditions where parasites and germs can flourish and mutate.
The Wuhan coronavirus spread quickly across the local seas and straits to Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. Then, it landed in America at a distance equal to a 16-hour plane flight.
The first U.S. case came from western Washington. An unidentified Snohomish County man in his 30s who returned from Wuhan in mid-January was diagnosed and remains under close watch in quarantine at Providence Regional Medical Center:
“The unnamed patient, who is in his 30s and a resident of Snohomish County, which is north of Seattle, arrived in the US on an indirect flight to Seattle-Tacoma airport on Jan. 15 — before airports began screening travelers from Wuhan, officials said.”
Health care staff who treated the man at a local clinic were asked to quarantine themselves to see if symptoms of coronavirus appear. County and federal health officials started to trace the patient’s travel route and contact fellow passengers and anyone else who made close contact with him.
The second case of the Wuhan coronavirus that has traveled halfway around the world to America was reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A woman in her 60s who arrived in Wuhan in late December 2019 and returned to Chicago from Wuhan on January 13, 2020, was diagnosed 11 days later – on January 24.
Dr. Allison Arwady, the Chicago health commissioner, told the CDC that the female patient, who had been taking care of her sick father, was “clinically doing well.”
Dr. Arwady stated that the Chicago woman had no respiratory symptoms while in transit but began to feel ill a couple of days after arriving home. She called her doctor’s clinic. Her doctor referred her to a hospital that began treatment and eliminating other known illnesses.
It was only after a CDC team was dispatched to Chicago to test the infected woman that a diagnosis was made. The medicos interviewed the woman and her family to determine everyone she has had contact with since returning stateside.
The U.S. State Department and the CDC expanded their advisories against travel to the affected area of China on Friday, warning Americans not to travel to the entire province in which Wuhan is located, Hubei. Original warnings included only the metropolitan Wuhan area.
According to the CDC, in excess of 2,000 people had been screened for the coronavirus as of January 23. A total of 63 patients in 22 states were under investigation the next day due to possible indications of this special – and possibly lethal – viral infection.
U.S. public health officials are looking for anyone who spent time in Wuhan, especially those who visited before the two known American cases did.
Meanwhile, in China, as the Lunar New Year holiday approaches, from January 24-30, the severity of the coronavirus has prompted Chinese officials to declare a “state of war.” Cities have issued travel bans to curb contagion that could conceivably grow to epidemic (if not pandemic) proportions. Beijing, China’s capital, and Wuhan have banned all large gatherings during their Chinese New Year festivals.
Residents and police are wearing protective face masks that cover the nose and mouth. Images of doctors in full hazmat suits have surfaced. One Chinese man was captured lying in a pool of his own blood after the victim collapsed in a city street and hit his head on the paving stones.
Wuhan and its environs are closing travel networks to limit the migratory patterns of about 25 million people – more than all the people in Florida:
“Public transport in and out of Wuhan was effectively shut down at 10 am on Thursday [January 23, 2020] and residents were told to remain in the city unless they could provide ‘special reasons’ for leaving.”
Despite Communist censorship of social media and public commentary about the severe medical emergency that is unfolding in China, some doctors there are warning that it is already too late to contain the virus, regardless of quarantines and official media muzzling.
Protective masks that cover the nose and mouth to reduce the risk of contamination by filtering the breath will be of little use if the virus is spread readily by touching contaminated objects. Yet, American health experts are claiming that there is no reason to panic or be overly concerned. (Let’s hope they don’t have to eat those words later.)
Anyone who has visited Wuhan, China, or any contaminated area or who has been in contact with such a person is advised to self-impose voluntary isolation to prevent the disease from infecting more people.