In light of an unprecedented pneumonia outbreak, resulting in three deaths and dozens ailing, the United States is taking precautionary measures by screening passengers at three major airports. The screenings began on Friday, January 17, occurring at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, the San Francisco International Airport and the Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday, January 18.
After testing blood samples and throat swabs alike from approximately 15 infected subjects, leading researchers have discovered the outbreak that began last December was instigated by a novel coronavirus, dubbed 2019-nCoV. A large family of viruses—ranging from the common cold to SARs (Severe Acute Respiratory Disease) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome)—coronaviruses can inflict diseases in both humans and animals such as camels, cats and bats.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seldom do “animal coronaviruses…evolve and infect people and then spread between people.”
The virus originated in Wuhan, China; at a popular seafood and meat market—which, as of January 1, 2020, has since been closed for sanitation and investigation.
Capital of the populous Hubei province, Wuhan resides nearly 700 miles south of Beijing—the capital of China and houses approximately 19 million residents, according to Wuhan’s municipal health commission.
Pneumonia, as defined by the American Lung Association, is “an infection that inflames your lungs’ air sacs [alveoli].” As a result of the inflammation, the alveoli may fill with pus or liquid instead of air. Pneumonia can be caused by various agents, such as viruses, fungi, bacteria, and possibly parasites. Depending upon the type of infection, symptoms may vary from mild to severe and deadly, including a cough that may produce “greenish, yellow or even bloody mucus.” In addition to fever, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, fatigue, and nausea.
According to the Wuhan Health Bureau, the first probable case of the virus was reported on Dec. 12. Meanwhile, as of Jan. 20, Wuhan described an exponential surge of cases, amounting to nearly 200. The first likely case documented outside of China was that of an elderly woman in Thailand.
On Jan. 8, three days before Chinese officials announced the outbreak, the 61-year-old tourist hailing from Wuhan had arrived in Bangkok. Soon, she was recognized by Thai authorities and hospitalized due to fever and breathing difficulties. The unnamed woman is currently in stable condition. The second case, too, details a female tourist, 74, who arrived in Thailand on January 13 and still remains in custody.
The third case was that of a Chinese male in his 30s, who had previously traveled to Wuhan. Upon returning to Japan on Monday, Jan. 6, the male had developed a fever. Afterward, the man was hospitalized on Friday, Jan. 10 and discharged on Wednesday, Jan. 15. The following day on Thursday, Jan. 16, Japanese officials publicly announced his case.
However, that very day, the disease had claimed another life. On Saturday, Jan. 11, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reported the death of a 61-year-old male that had occurred on Thursday. The passing of the unnamed man—who suffered from underlying health conditions, such as chronic liver disease and abdominal tumors—was attributed to severe pneumonia.
Authorities made note that the individual regularly attended the Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Market. Thereon, on Wednesday, Jan. 15, a male, aged 69, passed away due to the virus. The third death had occurred on Saturday, Jan. 18.
While the United States cautiously proceeds with the matter at hand, numerous countries—such as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and especially China—are following suit. In comparison to the SARS epidemic of 2003, which affected 8,098 individuals globally and claimed the lives of 774, China has been quick to respond.