If today’s headlines are to be believed, the threat a novel coronavirus poses to human health is severe but to the headlines about this newly identified virus match reality. [ China coronavirus spread is accelerating ]
Well, right now this is really early in the outbreak. So we’re not certain how much of a risk this is going to pose those certain key things. We need to know about the virus how transmissible it is. So that’s how easy it is to spread from person to person.
And what the severity is and those things we don’t know at the moment and we really need to know before we can properly assess the risk. Named for the crown light spikes on the surface.
There are currently seven types of Coronavirus that can infect humans, but sometimes those that infect animals evolved and infect humans previous examples include SARS, which caused severe symptoms.
This new coronavirus is thought to have originated in a so-called wet Market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where meat is sold alongside alive animals and it’s where officials think the virus spread from animals to humans sometimes referred to as so-called spillover event.
So far 584 cases including 17 deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization who has said tonight that those who have died had underlying health conditions and the virus is severe in 25% of those infected.
Authorities will be tracing contact trying to find out key characteristics of the virus how transmissible is. So that’s how easy it is to pass from one person to another how long people have in their incubation period so that would be from when they get infected how long do they start showing symptoms? And when did they become infectious?
These are some key things we need to know about the virus in order to understand what’s going to happen next.
We live in a highly interconnected world and the virus has also been confirmed in people in other parts of China and in 10 of the countries.
Now it is confirmed that human-to-human transmission has occurred within families and China and among those caring for infected patients.
The world has never been as prepared as it is now and this virus that causes a flu-like syndrome with pneumonia was picked up in the middle of the flu season in China, which is a tremendous effort really and within a few weeks.
The virus was sequence and we had a sequence available and a test available.
So there’s Remarkable progress both in technological solution to this and in Sharing because all of this information was made available straight away.
While officials are already working out how to stop the virus has spread giving it a proper name will take more time. [ China coronavirus spread is accelerating ].
It’s currently called 2019 n Co V or Wuhan stars and woo flew on the internet, but these unsurprisingly are unlikely to become official.
This is a political decision and a who committee will decide on that at a later date.
Well joining us from Davos is the director of the wellcome trust Professor, sir. Jeremy Farrah. Welcome to news night Professor firstly.
Let’s get an idea of how serious this is compared. For example to the tsar’s emergency or Ebola.
How would you rank this?
I think this we have state this incredibly seriously, whenever you get a virus that comes from the animal sector in this case probably that’s in Wuhan originally and it jumps across into humans and then causes a human transmission. So it goes from one person to another and critically it’s spread by respiratory it spread by coughing and sneezing and maybe touching that’s a very different transmission to the way. Ebola is spread. So taking this very seriously because it’s a Little virus and it can be spread by the respiratory system. [ China coronavirus spread is accelerating ].
What is the most urgent and important Public Health response right now than in your view.
Well, we don’t have any treatments and we don’t have a vaccine at the moment. Although we’re working very hard to move in both of those directions.
So at the moment the most important things are to do some very basic public health and China should be congratulated for some of the absolutely Extraordinary Measures. They’ve taken in the last few days making sure people who are sick are isolated and cared for in the best possible way that their family members are looked after to check that they don’t get sick that we encourage everybody to wash their hands as much as possible.
It’s wear masks is probably also sensible and to cut down travel to what is absolutely essential and to avoid regions which are highly dense and where this infection is known to be present and known to be transmitting.
You said at the start that we should be taking it incredibly.
Is it in your view a public health emergency with all that that term involves from a professional perspective.
This is an emergency in China without doubt. I mean it started in Wuhan probably in the early December and it’s now spread to essentially every Province in China. And as I said China has taken extraordinary Public Health measures and shared all of the information they have with the global community. So from a global public health and research Community.
Yeah, we’re taking this very seriously we have done for the last three or four weeks and things have happened which of would not have happened even five or 10 years ago, but the World Health Organization, that’s where the focus has to be the worst. Sorry to interrupt the World Health Organization has not yet declared a public health emergency.
Could you just give us some insight about what that means in as a distinction from actually doing so and what additional measures would come into play if they did do so.
Well at the moment is that it’s an emergency in China without doubt. But at the moment all of the cases that have been outside China have all been linked to travel to China and so far at least there has not been secondary cases in Japan or America Singapore Vietnam and the other countries where this has happened. So there’s there’s not been any ongoing Transmission in other countries, and that would be the key change that would force. I think the who to then change from this being an emergency in China to one that’s of global significance and that is To be watched incredibly carefully minute-to-minute day-to-day.
And as soon as that were to happen, then I’m quite sure the who would change the advice and change this into a public health emergency of international concern, but nobody should be nearly doubt that since the beginning of January since certainly we heard about it at welcome other colleagues around the world have been working incredibly hard to not panic but to stand back and take the really calm but critical measures that are essential to try and bring this under control but also planned for the long-term. I mean this could go on for Weeks it could go on for many months is infection could be established in humans for the long-term and we cannot do this just day-to-day. We’ve got to think in the long term. The testing has I understand improved markedly in recent years the testing for such viruses.
I don’t know if your earpiece is still in there.
How long do you think realistically it would be before a vaccine might be available?
I’m not sure. If so, the sequence of the virus was made it available immediately.
As soon as it was sequenced and people have been working on all around the world to make a vaccine but realistically a vaccine is going to be a minimum 3 to 6 months away from the first testing in humans and probably some significant time after that until it’s possible to use it in a public health situation.
We’ve made enormous progress. I mean, you will remember the progress made with Ebola vaccine within a year or so. So of starts we were able to use an Ebola vaccine for the first time in West Africa, and it’s played a critical role in the DRC over the last few months. So we’ve enormously improved our ability to move this forward with Academia with philanthropy with governments with the setting up of an organization called cepi that coordinates this at a global scale and critically with industry and one of the things we’ve been doing this week is to bring all of those people together again to make sure we can speed this up as much as we can. But just the stress in the coming days and weeks. The crucial thing is to do the public health things that are so important washing hands avoiding busy places making sure in China people wear masks and do the sensible things whilst those vaccines and drugs become available in the months to come.