On January 15, 2020, Japanese officials confirmed that a man living in Kanagawa Prefecture had been infected with the new coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The man is a Chinese national who had just returned from Wuhan and had passed quarantine after taking some fever medication. However, after going to the doctor in Japan, an X-ray of his lungs determined that his unknown condition could deteriorate. Therefore, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases conducted two tests, of which the second one tested positive.
Wuhan, in central China, has been dealing with the outbreak since December; and a total of 41 people (as of January 17, 2020) have been infected. Additionally, on January 17, 2020 China confirmed a second death related to the disease.
The novel coronavirus (novel meaning that it’s a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans) causes pneumonia, and the World Health Organization has warned governments to be prepared for the virus’s potential spread, particularly as the Chinese New Year holidays approach.
The virus is thought to have originated due to seafood exposure since those affected in Wuhan either worked at the same seafood market or shopped there. However, the Japanese resident who tested positive had not visited that market, so it’s likely that he contracted the virus after being exposed to a carrier.
As of now, there is not a lot of information regarding this coronavirus, but a Japanese health official has stated that the virus could be transmitted among humans if carriers spend long periods of time in close proximity to others.
Coronaviruses are a very large family of viruses that can cause illnesses as benign as the common cold and as deadly as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The SARS outbreak of 2002-2003 resulted in the deaths of 774 people.
China is currently also facing an African swine fever that has killed about 40% of the country’s pigs. In 2018, China had more than half of the world’s pig population, and by September 2019, the disease had caused economic losses of around $141 billion.
The World Health Organization has recommended people, particularly international travelers, to be extra cautious, and to avoid contact with people who seemed to have acute respiratory infections, wash their hands frequently (especially if having been in close proximity with sick people), cook meat thoroughly, and to avoid close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals.
People who have respiratory symptoms should follow cough etiquette, such as using clothing or tissues to cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing.
In Japan, the health ministry has called people to wash their hands, gargle, and use masks as preventive measures; and has stated that those visiting Wuhan should get a medical checkup as soon as possible if they see any cold or flu symptoms.
Besides the cases in China and Japan, Thailand has also reported two cases.