In China, 60 patients are currently suffering from a respiratory disease of unknown origin. Seven of them are in serious condition. Health authorities are investigating.
A mysterious illness
In China, 60 patients with a respiratory disease of unknown origin have been quarantined, the Health and Hygiene Commission of the City of Wuhan, where the outbreak occurred, announced on Sunday, January 5. But don’t panic, it’s not acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a viral disease that caused hundreds of deaths in the region in 2003, they said to calm the concern of the international community.
Among the 60 patients, the disease manifested itself between Dec. 12 and 29. Seven of them are seriously ill and the rest are in a stable state. “So far, no patient has died,” health officials said. Their investigation identified that several patients were vendors at the Wuhan market who specialize in selling seafood.
“The reported link with a wholesale market for fish and live animals could indicate a link with animal exposure,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said. Therefore, Wuhan municipality has ordered the closure of the market where disinfection and testing were carried out. During the investigation, which is still ongoing, health authorities found no cases of human-to-human transmission.
Mostly causes a fever
“As for the pathogen in question, we have ruled out several hypotheses, including whether it is influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS),” the press release reads. Most patients suffer only from fever but a small number of cases is accompanied by shortness of breath and pulmonary infections.
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“The symptoms reported in patients are common to several respiratory diseases and pneumonia is common in winter,” the WHO said. While calling for “caution” due to the concentration of cases, the organization currently opposes any restrictions on travel or trade in China.
In 2003, SARS killed nearly 800 people
In 2003, SARS, a highly contagious respiratory disease, killed nearly 800 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and surrounding areas. “The data indicate an incubation period of two to 10 days, which allows the infectious agent to be transported from one city to another without being suspected or detected,” David Heymann, WHO Executive Director for Communicable Diseases said.
Eight months after the first observed case (China had initially attempted to cover the case), through investigation (the causal agent was a previously unknown coronavirus in humans) and quarantine, the pandemic was contained. In total, it is estimated to have cost about $59 billion, including a drop in tourism revenue (-80% in China) and a 50% loss of revenue for airlines, tour operators, restaurants and taxi drivers. During this period, Southeast Asia experienced a drop in GDP of about 2%.
Following this tragedy, international regulations were adopted to force countries to report any new emerging infectious diseases that could spread rapidly and cross borders.