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Doctors warn Coronavirus could be as potent as SARS | India News


MUMBAI: The 2019 novel coronavirus — the newest virus spreading from China to the rest of the world — appears to have begun its infectious journey from the Hunan seafood market in Wuhan and there are indications that it is similar to the SARS virus that caused a pandemic in 2002-2003.

This means it can spread from person to person and from one city to another, shows the first review of the 2019 novel coronavirus — abbreviated as 2019-nCoV — infection among 41 patients from Wuhan.

Both the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus and 2019-nCoV belong to the large family of coronaviruses that was mostly associated with benign common cold until SARS changed the perception by infecting over 8,000 and killing 774 in a few months. Another coronavirus, MERS (middle east respiratory syndrome), emerged in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and was responsible for 850 deaths worldwide.

The review, published in ‘The Lancet’ on Friday, showed that all 41 patients with the 2019-nCoV infection had “pneumonia with abnormal findings”. A third of these earliest patients infected in December 2019 needed to be admitted in intensive care and six of them died.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr Om Srivastava said, “It is too early to say whether the novel coronavirus 2019 will become endemic in India.” There are no reported cases in India at this time, but he said there is a need for caution.

“One should be aware and alert, but not alarmed. Use hand sanitization/sterilization as it is the best way to break the cycle of transmission,” he added. The WHO released pamphlets to show that the best way to reduce the risk of a coronavirus infection is to clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.

While both SARS and ME- RS viruses emerged from bats, doctors are still working on the origin of the 2019-nCoV, the consensus is that it emerged from animals: Around 66% of the initial 41 patients were exposed to the seafood market. The first fatal case, person who had continuous exposure to the market, was admitted to hospital because of a seven-day history of fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing.

“Five days after the onset of the illness, his wife, a 53-year-old woman who had no known history of exposure to the market, also presented with pneumonia and was hospitalised in the isolation ward,” said the Lancet report.

The 2019-nCoV outbreak has resulted in 41 deaths and 1,287 infections in China as of January 25, but nearly 35 million residents are under a travel lockdown.

Dr Srivastava said given the rapid progression in the past 10 days, it would be safe to say that India needs to immediately adopt measures but be ready to revise them if they don’t work.

“The review of patients shows that there is no such thing as ‘people at a high risk’ as even healthy people in their 30s and 40s have been affected. We need to treat everyone with the same amount of caution,” he added. A senior doctor said the government may need to rethink its quarantine facility idea as sending people with any suspected viral infection to hospitals could jam the healthcare system.

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