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First line of defence against corona virus: Being alert


An  emergency warning against an unusual pneummonia attack that erupted in the Chinese city of Wuhan was released by World Health Organization (WHO)  on New Year's Eve.   The advice was prompted by the fact that the virus that triggered this disease is not familiar to the scintific world.  After a week,  when the Chinese authorities confirmed that the virus was identified from the saliva collected from one of the afflicted,  it led to a new health emergency.   For,  what was idenified from that test was a 'new' virus - technically a virus subjected to genetic transformation.  Although this belongs to the genre of other corona viruses like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome),  MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome),  the latest virus has to be termd a totally different one.  This germ,  also known by different names like novel corona virus,  Wuhan corona virus,  2019-nCoV,  has sent huge alarm all oer the world. 

As we write this,  in China alone 2,800 people have been confirmed as affected,  with the death toll crossing 80.  Corona virus presence has also been confirmed in countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan,  Australia,  Japan,  America, Malaysia,  South Kora, Singapore,  France and Vietnam.  Most recently,  it has been reported that a doctor from Rajasthan who arrived home after completing his medical degree in China has also been confirmed as infected.  Several people from different states including Kerala,  are under observation following symptoms of the disease being noticed.

It is true that even after confirmed patients are put in isolation,  and those showing signs kept under special observation,  when the virus is still spreading,  it will create no small panic.   A virus that had crated a simislar alarm before this was the Ebola virus.  Ebola was first confirmed in early December 2013,  in Meliandou village surrounded by forests in Guinea in Africa.  When early deaths were reported they were all considered as deaths by fever.  The world came to know about Ebola virus when it spread to other regions like Liberia,  Sierra Leone,  Nigeria,  Mali,  Senegl  Italy, US and  Britain.   According to data released by WHO in 2016,  over 28,000 people were confirmed with Ebola and 11,310 people succumbed to death.    Subsequent to the contagion of Ebola,  Zika in Latin America and Oceania,  and Nipah in Kerala did create health crisis,  they did not lead to mass deaths as in the case of Ebola.   And all these three viuses were not that familiar to the scientific world. And no vaccine or drug was developed for any of the three virus infections.  Still it was possible to tame them precisely.   Figures show that 17,000 patients with confirmed infection came back to life.  In the case of Nipah,  although a few deaths happened, Kerala was able to arrest the incidence of Nipah within three weeks with its limited resources.

It was thanks to the high level of alertness shown by the scientific world,  authorities,  health workers and media that they were brought under control.   It is the same vigilance that is called  for now when corona virus is spreading.   The first need is to stop unnecessary panic and to scrupulously follow the directions given by health workers and authorities.   Reactionary acts like re-transmitting messages which circulate via social media without verifying their accuracy and keeping people away from seeking treatment by formulating conspiracy theories were observed during the time of Ebola and Nipah.  And they had seriously affected the health service sector too.  Abstaining from them is a crucial responsibility of every one at this juncture.  Experts in this area affirm that the current virus affliction is also something that can be managed.   Although novel corona is distinct from the normal corona viruses,  its similarities with some other viruses identified recently, are opening doors of treatment possibilities.    Latest studies show that genomes of virus extracted from spcialt ypes of bats that sprad SARS and the Wuhan corona virus are 90 per cent similar to each other.  Therefore,  scientists are optimistic that through the research already happening for containing corona virus, Wuhan virus can also be contained to a grat extent.  In future,  as it materialised in the case of Ebola,  there are also possibilities of developing vaccines against Wuhan corona virus.   Until fully preventice medicines become available,  medication that can arrest disease symptoms can be used to control virus infection too.  In these circumstances,  the immediate solution to the crisis is to strictly comply with cautionary directions issued by WHO,  state health department and other similar agencies.

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