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assessment, danger … everything you need to know about the epidemic

Symptoms, mortality rate, health measures, progress in medical research … find here a maximum of elements of response concerning the epidemic of Chinese coronavirus COVID-19 (ex 2019-nCoV), as it evolves and the latest information known.

The coronavirus, the vector of the SARS virus.
Coronavirus virions, vector of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS. (Public Domain)

Is the virus contagious? How to protect yourself from it? Like all unknown virus epidemics, the current one Wuhan coronavirus epidemic or COVID-19 (ex “2019-nCoV”), a virus similar to that of SARS, raises many concerns and questions. We will try to answer them in this case over the days and as it unfolds and information from the Chinese and French authorities.

[Article mis à jour le 21/02/2020 à 16h00]

How many people have been affected by this coronavirus?

TheCOVID-19 virus epidemic (formerly 2019-nCoV) or Wuhan coronavirus is said to have started in early December 2019 in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China. The first infected people are said to have visited the town’s fish market, which sells a wide variety of foods and wild animals. On February 11, the World Health Organization officially renamed this virus COVID-19 for “Coronavirus Disease 2019”. The disease it causes has also been named: SARS-CoV-2 (echoing the first SARS-CoV epidemic in the 2000s).

The alert was said to have been initially launched by doctors in Wuhan a few days before initial action was taken. The latter had then been arrested by the authorities for having “Spread rumors”. One of them – Li Weilang – is believed to have died from a coronavirus infection. An investigation has been opened into the matter by the Chinese authorities. In Canada, the artificial intelligence of a start-up, BlueDot, who scours the press in 65 languages ​​daily for information on more than 150 diseases, is said to have spotted the epidemic and its potential spread by the end of December.

What are the causes and origin of the virus?

The virus, before being transmitted to humans, would therefore most certainly be of animal origin. The most likely hypothesis is that of the horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus sp.), Proven vector of the SARS coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome), very close to COVID-19. Chinese researchers have discovered the identity of the virus’s intermediate host or “reservoir”: the animal transmitted the virus to humans after being infected with the vector species. According to their genomic analyzes, it would be a kind of pangolin, the most poached animal in the world and one of the most endangered, possibly sold at the Wuhan market. As a result of this discovery (yet to be validated by the scientific world), the Chinese government has prohibited the sale or transport of wild animals until further notice.

The evolution of the epidemic, how many people infected and dead?

Since then, the current assessment [à dater du vendredi 21/02/2020] officially stands at close 2,250 victims (almost exclusively in Hubei province), including one in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, France and South Korea, and more than 76,700 people known to be infected worldwide. A first case of contamination was noted Friday February 14 on the African continent, in Egypt. In the Middle East: two people are said to have died in Iran, and one person is said to be infected in Lebanon and one in Israel. 82 members of a New World Church of Jesus, a South Korean sect, are said to have contracted the disease. Another 400 members are said to have symptoms. According to New york times, members of this sect are not allowed to wear masks or stay at home when sick. They were reportedly contaminated by sick guests from China. Italy, meanwhile, has identified six new cases of human-to-human transmission. A Chinese penitentiary is said to hold 500 patients.

The peak of the epidemic could be reached at the end of February. According to one recent Chinese study, only a third of those infected are said to have physically passed through Wuhan. In China, the number of dead and sick people officially exceeded that caused by the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic. Hong Kong researchers say, the actual number may be significantly higher when counting infected people still without symptoms. 12 of the people affected by the coronavirus are in France. Of the six British citizens infected at the Les Contamines-Montjoie ski resort, only four are still hospitalized. They were allegedly infected by a man from Singapore and then returned to the United Kingdom. A twelfth, an octogenarian Chinese tourist, died this weekend.

People who were infected while not traveling to China have been confirmed in France, Thailand, the United States, Germany, Japan and Vietnam. These individuals have been in contact with people from China or directly from Wuhan. A person, in a French repatriation flight in progress, would present symptoms of viral pneumonia. It will be quarantined upon arrival. Several dozen people are said to have recovered from the infection in China. Several hundred people have recovered from the infection since the start of the epidemic in China. Two passengers on a Hong-Kong-Italy flight are sick with the virus and may have infected several people. The number of people who have recovered from the infection has now largely surpassed the number of deaths since the start of the epidemic.

What are the health effects of this coronavirus? How is the infection declared?

COVID-19 is a virus very similar to the coronavirus responsible for2002-2003 SARS epidemic. It causes a high fever, severe cough and severe fatigue. According to scientific experts from The Lancet, dyspnea, or respiratory distress, seems to be a characteristic complication in a large part of the patients. This disease is spread through close contact with an infected person or through their postlets when coughing or sneezing. According to a new Chinese study, some infected patients may have traces of the virus in their digestive tract but also in saliva and urine. In addition, according to these researchers, the incubation period could actually last longer: 24 days rather than fourteen. According to current Chinese data, the COVID-19 mortality rate is 3% – which is lower than the 10% rate for SARS coronavirus and about 30% for that of MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), appeared in 2012. The speed of its spread is nevertheless much higher: COVID-19 took only 48 days to infect 1000 people. According to a new Lancet study, this viral pneumonia would be found mainly in elderly people or with underlying pathologies, in particular heart diseases. It hardly affects children under 15 years of age.

How can we protect ourselves from it in France?

A person with symptoms potentially linked to the virus, returning from a trip to China or having met people returning from the country should not not go to the emergency room, where it could spread the virus to other people. She must call the SAMU via 15 in order to get in touch with a regulatory doctor. If the doctor considers that there is a risk of infection, a medical team will come and take this person directly to the hospital where they will be assessed. Otherwise, the virus remains very weak in the outside environment and does not survive more than a few hours on a dry inert surface. Hand washing and surface cleaning would be enough to eliminate it. The Ministry of Health do not recommend wearing a surgical mask for non-sick people because its effectiveness has not been demonstrated. However, there is a “barrier protection” to be worn by sick people to avoid transmitting the virus. Infected and hospitalized patients are currently being treated with antivirals combined with antibiotics and, sometimes, oxygen therapy (which increases oxygen in the lungs).

What measures have been put in place to combat the epidemic?

TheWorld Health Organization (WHO) now officially considers the epidemic to be a “public health emergency of international scope”. She fears that the epidemic will spread to “Countries with weaker health systems”. The WHO says limiting travel to China would be counterproductive: it could encourage illegal travel and thus facilitate the spread of the epidemic. In addition, the organization certifies that the situation does not have to be qualified as “pandemic”. WHO recently confirmed the “Global shortage of personal protection”, including protective masks. However, she says that she regularly sends medical kits, gowns, gloves and masks to many medical teams around the world. The WHO said the number of infections has stabilized but is not yet certain that the peak of the epidemic has passed. The WHO said the number of infections has stabilized but is not yet certain that the peak of the epidemic has passed. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of WHO, said stopping the epidemic in China is “A great emergency” but that the virus remains a “Very big threat” worldwide.

The situation in Wuhan and more generally in China

Chinese government has placed more than a dozen municipalities in quarantine – that is, tens of millions of people. New municipalities have been confined (notably the one where the online sales company, Alibaba) is located. The latter only allow one person per household to go out once every two days to do their shopping. Macau, a famous coastal city, has closed its casinos. The start of the second school semester has been postponed for all children and students in the country. Over 2,000 train trips have been canceled. Hong Kong blocks all trains from mainland China. In the midst of the New Year, China also banned travel agencies from selling packages for domestic and overseas journeys. Toyota, the Japanese automaker, has closed several of its factories in China. Otherwise, several accesses to national monuments are now closed : several sections of the Great Wall of China, the Ming tomb or the pagoda forest. In Shanghai, the Disneyland amusement park has closed its doors. The ski World Cup stop in China has been officially canceled.

The Chinese government has ordered the emergency construction of two hospitals near Wuhan to accommodate 2,500 COVID-19 patients. The first of the two opened on February 3. The second opened this Thursday, February 6. In parallel with this epidemic, China announced the appearance of avian influenza, H5N1, in a province south of Wuhan. Several thousand poultry have been slaughtered, but no human cases have been reported to date. A hotline, intended for foreign nationals, has been set up in China. The Beijing Formula 1 Grand Prix has been postponed until April. The Chinese government has set up a system allowing its citizens to detect whether or not they have been in contact with a sick person. The Chinese government has exempted certain medical equipment from customs duties in order to supply it to help fight the epidemic. He is currently being criticized for arresting a human rights activist and a Chinese intellectual who denounced his handling of the crisis. Three journalists from Wall street journal were ordered to leave the country after an article deemed racist and entitled “China is the real sick man of Asia”.

News of the international epidemic (Thailand, Canada, USA, Belgium, etc.)

Australia is said to have quarantined the Chinese women’s football team. She would have arrived after a stopover in Wuhan. Asian Champions League matches including Chinese clubs have been reported. Russia, which has two cases of infected people, announces close its borders with China until further notice. She warns that she says she is ready to deport “Foreigners carrying the virus”. President Vladimir Putin’s security would require measuring the temperature of everyone near him. In a Russian city on the border with China, wearing a surgical mask has become compulsory for traders and other trades in contact with the public. The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Iraq, Israel and the Philippines have banned foreigners who have recently visited China from entering their territory. Competitions in the video game e-sport league Overwatch scheduled in China next month have been canceled. They will take place in South Korea. For the sake of “Health protection”, anti-doping tests for Chinese athletes scheduled to compete in the Tokyo Olympics have been canceled. Google has ceased operations on site until further notice and electronics manufacturer LG has banned its employees from traveling to China. Italy, presenting two cases of contamination, declared a state of emergency and banned all flights from or to China. Chinese wrestlers, participants in the Asian Championship in New Delhi, have been banned from entering Indian territory. Filming Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Empire would not be canceled: production said that the shots planned in China will take place next September.

In Mexico, the company of Uber has suspended dozens of accounts following a suspected contamination from one of its users. A Formula E car race, scheduled for March in China, has been postponed. South Korean automaker Hyundai has been forced to halt production due to a shortage of parts from China. Several factories production of iPhones are currently closed in China. According to Apple, the shortage caused by these prolonged closings will impact its “Worldwide turnover”. In addition, many Apple Stores remain closed in China. Still in the tech world, several companies like LG, Ericsson, Sony, Amazon and NVIDIA will not participate in the big Barcelona World Mobile Congress this month. This was finally canceled by the city of Barcelona. For the same reasons, Sony recently announced its withdrawal from the gaming lounge PAX East 2020 in Boston. Ditto for the Game Developers Conference 2020 in San Francisco, which loses the participations of Sony and Facebook. Finally, the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship was quarantined off Yokohama, Japan, because more than 500 (including several new cases) of the four thousand people on board (including personnel) are said to be infected. IPhones were allegedly provided to them to keep them informed. Several countries wish to extirpate their nationals. One of the passengers still on board died this week. A Japanese doctor specializing in epidemics voluntarily quarantined himself after visiting patients at the Diamond Press. According to him, the management of the epidemic on board is disastrous. Two Australian passengers tested positive for the virus after leaving it. Another boat in Hong Kong is stopped and its passengers forced to remain confined. His quarantine should end on February 19. In Cambodia, Thousands of passengers and crew disembarked from Westerdam liner are wanted after an American passenger contracted the disease. Her infection was only confirmed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when she attempted to fly home.

The UK – which has identified four new cases – views the epidemic as a “Serious and imminent threat”. The British government has stepped up preventive measures: medical authorities can now force a patient to stay in confinement until further notice without the possibility of him being released from quarantine. Two women’s golf tournaments have been canceled in Singapore and Thailand. AirBNB has suspended all possible bookings in the city of Beijing until the end of April. General Motors’ offices and factories in South Korea have temporarily closed. Japan has banned the public from participating in the birthday of the new emperor, Naruhito, on February 23. In North Korea, the Pyongyang marathon has been canceled.

In Paris, the annual Chinese New Year parade has been postponed for health reasons but also to avoid “Risks of psychosis”. The Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs plan to repatriate several Franco-Chinese families to France. 350 Europeans and 250 French were repatriated last week. Despite initial suspicions, no Frenchman returned from China in this way would be sick. Belgian, repatriated to his country by one of the French flights, would nevertheless be infected. Only “Healthy or asymptomatic people” will be repatriated and quarantined for 14 days. Several of them do not wish to, given the quarantine required upon their arrival in the territory. A fourth French repatriation flight – comprising around 30 French nationals and around 30 other European citizens – landed in Calvados this Friday, February 21. The United Kingdom, which announced its first two cases of contamination, is currently trying to do the same for its nationals in Wuhan. 18 South Koreans recently repatriated to their country are sick. The first American repatriation flight arrived in Alaska today. Canadians have recently been repatriated to a military base in their country. China, meanwhile, is trying to repatriate stranded Chinese tourists to Bali. British Airways, LionAir and Lufthansa have suspended all flights to mainland China. AirFrance did the same, until March 15. United Airlines, Finnair and Cathay Pacific have simply reduced their numbers. AirFrance has not yet changed their plans. Ditto today, for many countries in the Middle East. Hong Kong Airlines, struggling with the epidemic and the cancellation of numerous flights, is forced to lay off hundreds of people. Still in France : posters and informative leaflets are distributed at airports. In addition, in Paris, the Bichat and Pitié-Salpêtrière hospitals each have seven specialized containment chambers. As part of the French municipal campaign, Agnès Buzin resigned from her status as Minister of Health to devote herself to it. His successor, neurologist Olivier Véran, will hold a crisis meeting this Tuesday, February 18.

How to eliminate what coronavirus? Is there a cure?

The Institut Pasteur is currently looking for a “Candidate vaccine” from viral samples taken from the three French people currently hospitalized. He considers getting a first vaccine formulation within 6 months. Clinical trials including interferon (a drug used to boost the immune system, for example, in AIDS patients) and remdesivir (an antiviral used against the Ebola virus) are also underway. The Thai health ministry claims to have successfully treated a woman Coming from China with coronavirus, thanks to a cocktail of anti-virals – oseltamivir, used for flu, with lopinavir and ritonavir, used to fight HIV.

Internationally, Australian researchers have been tasked with developing a vaccine using a new accelerated method. In addition, the American Institute of Health (NIH) estimates that it will be able to develop a vaccine and test it in humans within 3 months. Australian scientists at the Doherty Institute are the first outside China to cultivate, replicate and sequence the viral genome of COVID-19. They shared their results with WHO. This first replica of the virus will give them the opportunity to test different antibody formulas and identify which react to the virus. This could help detect infection in infected but still asymptomatic people. China reportedly announces first human tests for ‘vaccine candidates’ from the beginning of April.

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