“I think an epidemic either naturally caused or intentionally caused is most likely to cause, say 10 million excess deaths. This is a global problem,” warned Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Currently, the Corona virus, otherwise know as Covid-19, emerged and spread quickly as if lending credence to his warning. It has caused social chaos because of the danger it represents. People are frightened of contracting the deadly illness. They hesitate to go outside and avoid places where groups of people gather. Small businesses such as restaurants are suffering from the decline in patronage. People believe the government must take greater action to contain the spread of the virus. It is only getting worse and people are beginning to lose faith in the government’s ability to provide protection. So, where did it all begin and just how deadly is it? The Dankook Herald (DKH) investigated to better inform its readers.
Covid-19 is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a new type of corona virus that first broke out in Wuhan, China on December 19, 2019. At first, it was known as a respiratory disease with unknown causes. The pathogen was confirmed when the World Health Organization (WHO) clarified on January 9, 2020 that the cause of the pneumonia was a new type of corona virus named ‘SARS-CoV-2’ by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Covid-19 is transmitted when a droplet from the infected person penetrates the respiratory system or mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth of another. Droplet infection occurs when viruses or germs are mixed with tiny droplets of water, such as saliva and transmitted to others through coughing or sneezing. It can also be transmitted if the infected person’s saliva directly enters someone else’s eye, or if someone rubs his or her eyes with hands that are contaminated with the virus. While it is clear the virus is transmitted through contact, health authorities declared there is a possibility it may have airborne transmissions too. When infected with Covid-19, after an incubation period of 2 to 14 days, patient will suffer from respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, coughing and a fever, which can eventually lead to pneumonia or difficulty breathing. Muscle pain, fatigue and diarrhea may also occur, and in some rare cases, patients may remain asymptomatic.
WHO announced that Covid-19 is an international emergency. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) responsible for naming the new disease reported the virus outbreak has caused 2,764 deaths out of the reported 80,997 cases worldwide. Ground zero for Covid-19 was determined to be a seafood market in Wuhan, China. The first overseas transmission was recorded in Thailand when a taxi driver was infected by a traveler. Stock markets are reacting to the news as the situation develops. Thanks to WHO's fast response, the international society has been able to coordinate efforts to contain the spread. Jerome Powell, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has opted not to impose impulsive limitations on trade, saying it was too early to determine the effect this will have on the US economy. "We are looking at the economic impact of the new corona infection. It could disrupt the Chinese economy and even affect the global economy, including neighboring countries."
In response to the outbreak of Covid-19, health ministers from Germany and France and two major EU congresses said they were discussing ways to restrict entry of foreigners from China. The US government has already decided to deny entry to the United States, Chinese foreign nationals who are not immediate family members of US citizens or permanent residents who have been to China in the last 14 days. Public countermeasures are trying to keep local nationals safe. Nations are requiring quarantine periods for incoming visitors from China and other virus hotspots. They are also establishing rapid virus test systems at ports of entry, providing quick screeening results within 24 hours. From early February private medical institutions were also able to screen for the virus. Public health centers prepared and distributed detailed instructions for local governments and medical institutions to test for and deal with the virus. The Ministry of Education in Korea recommended postponing the opening of the semester of each university for up to four weeks, as concerns about the incoming 70,000 Chinese students were raised. International students, Korean students and faculty members who visited Hubei Province of China were also urged to take time off from school. Korean citizens living in Wuhan were repatriated on the 31st of January but were quarantined during the 14 day incubation period of Covid-19. They were separated into two groups located at the Jincheon National Civil Service Personnel Development Center and Asan Police Personnel Development Center, in Chungcheongnam-do.
However, despite the government’s best efforts to contain the spread of the virus, new cases have emerged in Daegu, from the Sinchonji Church. Sinchonji is a little known cult based on the beliefs of pontoon Lee Man-hee. They are recently accused of encouraging Chinese believers from Wuhan to attend Lee’s birthday celebration at the location in Daegu, causing an immediate spread of the disease throughout the city.
Citizens are losing their patience with the containment progress and their anxiety is growing as the virus spreads at a rate faster than people are being cured. Jeong Eun-kyung, head of the center for Disease Control and Prevention, has been holding a daily briefing since the crisis began and is doing his best to deliver the latest information needed to protect citizens.
To learn more about Covid-19, the Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed Jung Yong Tae, a professor of microbiology at Dankook University (DKU). He explained the background of the recent outbreak, its prevention, source and possible vaccines. He said the rate of infectious diseases is increasing due to increased movement of people, plants, and trade between countries, the destruction of animal habitat and global climate change, changes in pathogens and aging. According to Professor Jung, it’s true that viruses can be a big threat to humans, but there are actions people should take to mitigate the damage. There are two sources of protection, the government and the individual. At the national level, research and development on new infectious diseases and viruses should be conducted on a regular basis, which should be accompanied by regular training on unexpected scenarios. At the individual level, people should be careful with their own personal hygiene. Stating the seriousness of the Corona virus, he explained that this is a potentially dangerous situation because there is no vaccine yet. Professor Jung also explained that Covid-19 is suspected of resulting from a cross contamination between humans and animals. Viral mutations result from an antigenic shift and antigenic drift. An antigen shift is the result of two types of viruses infecting host cells, causing a rapid antigen variation. The new Corona virus was re-combined to cause an antigenic shift and antibodies in the human body were infected by an antigenic drift, which made it impossible to fight antigenic shift. Professor Jung also wanted to reassure Dankookians that a vaccine is in the works. All genetic information on the genome of the new Corona virus has been made public and researchers around the world are working hard to develop a vaccine. However, because both animal testing and clinical testing are required, a potential vaccine is not expected to be completed for another 18 months, as announced by WHO.
Threats of viruses are becoming more and more serious. When a new deadly virus emerges, there is a lot of public confusion generated. According to experts, no matter how technology develops, there is a limit to our ability to develop a vaccine as soon as the virus appears. There is also a limit to on how to deal with the virus, even if governments react immediately. Most viruses, fortunately, can be prevented by caring about hygiene, such as washing your hands thoroughly and frequently and always wearing a mask when going outside. Due to the increase in virus outbreaks, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers and try to protect ourselves from them.
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