BU News Service
By Miriam Fauzia
BOSTON — As of Thursday, there is an estimated total of 82,164 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally since the disease first emerged in January and the trend is expected to continue rising.
In mainland China, where the virus has hit the hardest, there have been over 78,000 confirmed cases and 2,744 deaths. In neighboring South Korea, a significant number of the nearly 1,600 ill is associated with the Shincheonji, a secretive Christian sect. One infected individual unknowingly spread the disease to at least 37 other people in her church before being diagnosed, according to Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The United States recently had its first suspected case through “community spread” – transmission without known travel history to affected areas or exposure. The patient, who lives in California’s Solano County, was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center from another hospital this month. The individual was suspected to have coronavirus, but diagnostic testing was delayed as there were no symptoms fitting the Center for Disease Control’s existing coronavirus criteria. Federal authorities at the CDC have said virus transmission in the United States is highly likely.
“Ultimately, we expect we will see coronavirus spread in this country,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases told the LA Times Tuesday. “It’s not so much a question of if, but a question of when.”
New cases in the Middle East and Europe have been linked with travel to Iran and Italy, respectively. Experts believe the flow of Muslim pilgrims to Shiite holy sites in Iran and Iraq, itinerant workers and fragile health systems are contributing to the flux of disease. Ballooning numbers in Italy – confirmed cases now at 650 – have the World Health Organization concerned about a disease spread previously unseen outside China.
Despite the dread of infection, nearly 33,000 patients worldwide have fully recovered. According to a New York Times report, early detection of lung infection with CT scans can speed up treatment and improve the chances of getting better. However asymptomatic carriers, individuals who show no signs of disease, may unwittingly be exempt from the screening and detection process, especially if they have no known link to China or other affected regions.
The biggest question now is when will the coronavirus pandemic peak? According to Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese physician known for his discovery of the SARS virus, the outbreak may resolve by the end of February. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also agree that the end is nigh. The production of a new prophylactic vaccine by Moderna Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, may aid in that, although it has yet to undergo human clinical trials.
For now, the CDC recommended avoiding close contact with people who are sick, self-quarantine if sick, regular hand washing and wiping frequently touched objects with disinfectant. Facemasks are only recommended in individuals who show symptoms of coronavirus.