It was like something out of a science fiction movie. Out of nowhere, a mysterious disease began infiltrating the headlines of newspapers around the world, thought to have originated from a seafood and fish market in Wuhan, China. The disease began to spread, and the number of those infected, the countries with confirmed cases, and deaths from the disease grew exponentially.
Travelers from Asia were stopped and scanned for symptoms at the airport, a seemingly good idea, except that symptoms don’t develop for two weeks after the initial infection. Entire cities were shut down, including the Chinese metropolis of Beijing. The disease has now killed 41 people, infected nearly 1,500, and spread to at least eight countries on three different continents. It may sound like an apocalyptic thriller, but the scenario is part of real-life. The disease is the coronavirus, a disease that is similar to the SARS, and has become a global epidemic as doctors try desperately to stop the spread and death.
How Did it Start?
Wuhan, China is the city where the outbreak began, and the so-called “wet” markets seem to be the reason for it. At these markets, hundreds of thousands of Chinese people are in close proximity not only with each other, but with living and dead animals. This makes these areas prime breeding grounds for the spread of diseases and infections. Scientists and researchers say that bats carry coronaviruses and could be responsible for the outbreak, but new evidence suggests that birds or even snakes could also have transmitted the germs to humans. Because China is so heavily populated (first in the world for that statistic) and people are constantly around each other-in homes, on the streets of cities, on public transportation, in hospitals-the disease, which can spread through coughing, sneezing, and close contact with another person, quickly got out of control.
Travelers to China took the disease not only to other Asian countries like Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia, but to countries like France, the United States, and Australia. Now China has put several cities on lockdown and restricted travel in and out of the country to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Why is it Dangerous?
One of the reasons coronavirus is so dangerous is because it can spread so quickly. Just being around a person who is infected with the disease could be enough to contract it. However, because symptoms don’t show up immediately, a person could be around someone ill and not even know it, another reason why coronavirus is spreading so fast and becoming so harmful. But one of the biggest reasons why the coronavirus is such a big deal is because scientists have never seen anything like it. The strand is similar to the diseases of the flu, SARS, and MERS, but the actual genetic code is unique, and hasn’t been seen by any scientists or doctors. This means that there is no cure as of now, and that it is harder to stop the spread of the coronavirus. People, in China and other areas of the world, have not had the opportunity or time to develop a resistance to this new illness. Some people’s immune systems are stronger than others, whether that is due to ethnicity, age, genetics, or some other factor, and are able to fight off the coronavirus or at least have milder symptoms than most.
Scientists, researchers, and medical professionals have used the genetic code to study the disease, better diagnose it, and to potentially develop treatments for it. The world will have to wait and see as to whether or not the coronavirus will continue to spread in the manner it has so far, or if efforts by the Chinese government and medical departments will help stop the epidemic.