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Coronavirus: Reason For Panic?

The Year of the Rat.

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The Spring Festival in China, marking the beginning of the Chinese New Year is the longest holiday in China, and perhaps the world, going on for 15 days straight!

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For many, it's a once-a-year opportunity to reunite with their families and there's a lot of travelling back to the hometowns. Vibrant parades with giant dragons slithering to and fro, the city bathed in the colour of red for good luck and fireworks are but a few of the very impressionable sights that you would be able to witness.

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This year though, the year of the Rat (how coincidental!), an air of uncertainty and anxiousness seems to have enveloped China and the rest of the world. The emergence of the new coronavirus.

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Celebrations have come to a standstill and entire cities have been locked down. 

Wuhan, built along the Yangtze river, is a hub of activity, home to 11 million people, and is the 42nd largest city in the world, and 7th largest in China. The fact that the virus seems to have originated in a local market in Wuhan hasn't stopped the spread of the virus due to the fact that there's a lot of travelling to and from this city, which has 230 of the World's 500 biggest companies invested here. 

What is Coronavirus? 

A member of the coronavirus family, this particular one (currently named 2019-nCoV) has never been encountered before and, similar to all coronaviruses, it is thought to have come from animals, but no cause has been properly identified as of yet.

Nearly 3,000 people have been infected, and the majority of them live in China. The death toll has jumped to 80 as we speak. Officials have announced that the sale of all wildlife will be banned from Sunday onwards. 

What are the symptoms?

Coughs, fever and breathing difficulties have been the first signs of those infected by the coronavirus, which has soon led to pneumonia. 

In severe cases, this coronavirus has even caused kidney failure, severe acute respiratory syndrome and even death. Recovery will depend on the immune system, and those who have died of the virus are known to have already been in a state of poor health. 

How does it spread?

China's national health commission has confirmed human to human transmission, and over the past few weeks, cases have tripled. 

The virus has also been confirmed in other Asian countries as well as in Europe and North America.

Here's the lowkey scary part. 

The virus has an incubation period (the period of time during which a person has the disease but will not show symptoms)  of 14 days. Without the presence of the symptoms, a person may be unaware of the fact that they have the virus, but will still be spreading it unknowingly. 

This is where the real challenge lies. Unlike diseases like Ebola and Sars, which are contagious only when the symptoms appear, it will be a challenge to identify those whom the virus has infected. Isolating the infected and monitoring those whom they've come in contact with is going to be exigent on the professionals. 

The outbreak still has not been classified as a global emergency, and WHO has urged China to keep its lockdown "short".

How has this affected Sri Lanka?

Uncertainty tainted the air when 4 individuals including a Chinese woman was admitted to the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Angoda. Samples were sent to the National Medical Research Institute, and they confirmed the fact that the patients had not in fact been affected by the virus. 

Although this is good news, we are far from being able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The Minister of Health and Indigenous medicine, Pavithra Liyanarachchi stated in the Parliament on the 24th of January that the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are being taken. 

A health desk has been set up at the Katunayake International Airport to confirm the fact that none of the individuals entering the country are carrying the virus, and Chinese nationals entering the country will be specifically checked. This set up includes thermal scanning facilities and all the necessary equipment needed for its proper implementation as well as the safety of patients and medical staff. 

The Government have also stressed upon taking certain basic precautionary methods that will help reduce the risk. 

The Sri Lanka Public have been requested to wear face masks in crowded places as a precaution, and pregnant women and children have been requested to avoid crowded places whenever possible. 

You can also

  • Use handkerchiefs while coughing
  • Properly dispose of facial tissues 
  • Wash your hands often and carry around a hand sanitiser
  • Use alcohol-based hand rub or sanitiser 
  • Avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked meat

Refraining from individuals who have a fever or a cough and getting yourself treated immediately if you have any breathing difficulties or the aforementioned symptoms are other precautions that you must compel yourself to take. 

The President has also instructed the appointment of a National Action Committee in order to combat the spreading the virus. He has also taken the decision to repatriate nearly 150 Sri Lankan students studying in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province. Ravinath Ariyaratne, the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that records are being gathered of the students in China and that these students will be quarantined until they are above suspicion. 

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