Science, Technology & Innovation

What you need to know about the novel Coronavirus

The coronavirus is the new disease the began in December of 2019 in China, specifically Wuhan. It is unknown how this disease spread to humans, but many speculate that it came from the COVID-19 infested bats from Wuhan. Most people believe that the virus came from a meat market in Wuhan where animals, such as bats, were not sterilized properly before being cooked and sold to the public. Bats are known to carry the coronavirus and in Asian culture, bats are seen as a delicacy; hence why people believe that COVID-!9 came from an unsterilized bat that was consumed.

Have you ever wondered who created quarantine and why? Who were the first people to use it in history? Which strategies and tactics have the ability to reduce the amount of COVID-19 cases? Finally, what is the first country stopped the spread of coronavirus? Countless people have had numerous questions about this topic, including the ones mentioned above. These are all very important questions that people ponder, but to many, the answers are unclear.

It is likely that a large percentage of the people reading this article are from the 2.6 billion people undergoing quarantine procedures because of the global coronavirus pandemic. Quarantine, or a state in which a person is isolated because they could’ve possibly been exposed to diseases (for example the coronavirus), was actually invented quite a long time ago. It was actually used many centuries before the 21st century. In fact, it is one of the oldest human practices. The idea of being in quarantine was created by Ibn Sina. More information is included about this in his book The Canon of Medicine that was published in the year 1020. Quarantine is one of many ancient practices that is still used today. It has had great scientific progress throughout the years and it still remains to be a successful way to control the spread of pandemics as well as epidemics. It is also another way of reducing the spread of diseases, such as COVID-19.

Whilst the world  began to fight the coronavirus pandemic, WHO (the world health organization) took its first steps with the hopes of limiting exposure to the coronavirus and reducing the transmission of this disease. They used Ibn Sina’s idea of quarantine. The first step was a 2 week quarantine. What followed was closing schools and putting the majority of large regions under lockdown for 2 weeks. As for the origins of quarantine, it originated from Europe. During an epidemic, Italian ports isolated ships coming from epidemic areas were to remain in the marina for 40 days. This was one of the first known times that the process of quarantine was used. Ironically, the word “quarantine” is a word derived from the Italian language. However, although the word is derived from the Italian language, there have been a few more incidents prior to the isolated ships that were in different places, like Damascus.

Before implementing quarantine procedures in Venice, Italy and Southern European cities, Al-Walid Ibn Abd Al-Malik began Quarantine in Damascus. He built a hospital to isolate the people affected by Leprosy to avoid possible transmission to other patients. This hospitals purpose was solely for those with Leprosy. Luckily, the world has become much  more technologically advanced since 1918. Our minds have also advanced in this time period as well. This has allowed us to understand countless infectious diseases and how to prevent them. It is rare for a disease to progress to every continent and reach the height that COVID-19 has. Unfortunately, most of the countries across the world face the same challenge today with COVID-19. People undermined the seriousness of the coronavirus. However, COVID-19  has a comparable lethality to H1N1 influenza (1918).

Now, the U.S has the most cases with 2.37 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 123,000 deaths. Many states that opened early on have had very large spikes in cases of this virus. These states include Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Utah. Essentially, there are two possible fundamental strategies:

(a) Suppression- The aim of said strategy is to reduce the reproduction number (the average number of secondary cases each case generates [R]), to below 1. This in turn can reduce the case numbers to low levels or (similar to SARS or Ebola) eliminate human-to-human transmission. The main challenge of this approach is that NPI’s(Non-pharmaceutical intervention) need to be maintained intermittently for as long as the virus is circulating in the human population, or until a vaccine becomes widely available. However,  it will be at least 12-18 months before a vaccine is available for the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that initial vaccines will have high efficacy, especially since scientists are under immense pressure and being rushed in certain areas.

(b) Mitigation- The goal of mitigation is to use NPI’s. NPI’s are necessary not only to interrupt transmission completely, but to reduce the health impact of an epidemic. This is akin to the strategy adopted by some U.S cities in 1918, and it was globally adopted in the 1957, 1968 and 2009 influenza pandemics. For instance, in the 2009 pandemic, a drug trial was created and was targeted at individuals with pre-existing medical conditions (their medical history made them more susceptible to catch these diseases and sometimes even made these virus’ fatal for them) In this scenario, population immunity builds up through the pandemic, leading to an eventual rapid decline in case numbers and transmissions drop to low levels.

These strategies differ in their approach, but in the end they have the same goal which is to reduce the numbers of widespread diseases. Whether they aim to reduce the reproduction number( R to below 1 [suppression]) – and thus  in turn cause case numbers to decline – or to merely slow spread by reducing R, but not to below 1 (mitigation), they both will have a positive affect if used properly and correctly, according to Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team. It may come as a surprise to some once they figure out the first country that recognized the seriousness of COVID-19.

Taiwan. Taiwan was the first country recognize the gravity of this virus. The  reason for this is because of the vice president. Taiwan’s vice president was alert and alarmed at how rapidly this virus was growing. They acted early; in fact, ever since December 31st, 2019, they tried to alert the rest of the world, and suspended flights to and from Wuhan. They sent two experts to Wuhan in order to discover how dangerous it is. They uncovered that this virus spreads quickly and will most likely spread all over the world. So they started to wear masks and us disinfectants and they closed their borders. Unfortunately, despite their efforts, many people were not made aware of this virus until January and some even February. Also, there is no known vaccine or over the counter medication that can prevent the transmission of this disease from human to human. Luckily, studies show that wearing masks can dramatically decrease the chance of getting the virus from someone who has tested positive. Masks are now everywhere, even in vending machines. Taiwan took preventative measures from the beginning, before the coronavirus turned into a global pandemic. Taiwan did all what we are all doing now, except the difference is that they did it early on, so their cases are much less than many places. Taiwan has only had 446 confirmed cases and the majority of people have recovered (436) with a very minimal fatality rate (7 people died). During the first month in which Taiwan began to take action, there were ZERO cases. Everyone everyone worked together as a team and without a full curfew. Taiwan has never needed to go under lockdown and never closed their shops either. They closed the schools for only a 2 week period so everyone can stay at home and protect themselves or recover if the unknowingly had the virus. Taiwan is even in the very vicinity of China. Despite this, cases still remain low. in fact, they used their proximity to China for good by sending experts and getting in touch with the situation. This is Taiwan. Many regions, including the United States and Italy should’ve followed in the footsteps of Taiwan, but they didn’t. Now the result is disastrous. Life pretty much goes on almost normally in Taiwan. However, for many countries and states, the new normal will be different from what we’ve done or what we’ve grown up to know.

Author

Tuqa Salim