Many of us will have heard about the coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan, China in December 2019. This outbreak is being treated as a global emergency, as declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the 30th of January. Since the beginning of the outbreak, there has been a lot of sensationalism and panic surrounding conversation about the outbreak, so how worried should we be about Coronavirus?
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is actually used to refer to a group of viruses that usually cause respiratory disease ranging from the ‘mild’ Influenza that causes the flu to the more ‘severe’ SARS and MERS. The virus of this current outbreak is a new/novel coronavirus that hasn’t been identified in the human body until now, it has been named 2019 n-Coronavirus. Because 2019 n-Coronavirus is a new virus, we don’t know what its full effects are on the human body. The cases we have seen already show that 2019 n-Coronavirus causes viral pneumonia.
How does it spread?
The first case(s) of human infection of the 2019 n-Coronavirus is likely to be from an animal that carried the virus, this process is called zoonosis. However, after zoonosis, the main form of transmission of coronavirus is from human to human via coughing and sneezing, similar to how the flu is spread. The best way to prevent transmission is to wash hands and use tissues when coughing and sneezing, clinics and hospital have been advised to ensure infection control measures are taken.
What areas are affected?
The main area affected by 2019 n-Coronavirus has been Wuhan, although the virus has spread to many areas of mainland China with more than 98% of total cases. At the time of writing, there were 9926 confirmed cases of infection, although the numbers are likely to be higher as symptoms of the virus are similar to the flu, or other chest infections making it difficult to distinguish which cases are the flu and which aren’t.
China has taken great measures to ensure the virus is contained by locking down certain areas and restricting travel. This been proving difficult as the outbreak coincided with the celebration of the Chinese New Year which sees the largest human migration, called the Chunyun period. Despite their efforts, the virus has spread to many areas in mainland China, and now internationally. India, Thailand, Japan, and Singapore have all reported cases of 2019 n-Coronavirus, but more recently Germany, France and the UK. At the time of writing, this article two cases of Coronavirus have been recorded in the UK and British nationals living in China are being flown back and are reported to be placed in 14 days of quarantine.
How does this affect students?
Queen Mary have advised students to not travel back to university if they are in the affected areas and to speak to the university about their progression if the lockdown continues. I spoke to Vice President Education Annika Ramos who told me that Chinese students are likely to be on a Tier 4 student visa. Missing classes could jeopardise the visa status of Chinese students so they may be less inclined to declare their current status to the university. Ramos says that although she understands the situation of these students, she would urge the students to ask the university to support. She said that the university is able to help students who aren’t able to come back to the UK because of the outbreak.
This outbreak of coronavirus is causing a lot of panic and the spread of misinformation. To combat this and stay informed on the issue I have included a few links on where best to get information.
Coronavirus: latest information and advice
Queen Mary Advice and FAQs
WHO Coronavirus information
NHS page on Coronavirus