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Last Updated : Jan 19, 2020 12:41 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Why India needs to keep an eye on the new coronavirus outbreak in China

The pneumonia outbreak in China's Wuhan city in Hubei province in December 2019, is said to have been caused by a new coronavirus, coming from the same family of viruses that caused SARS in 2003

A woman has a temperature check at Hong Kong airport on April 23, 2004, as a precaution against the SARS virus. (Image: Reuters)
A woman has a temperature check at Hong Kong airport on April 23, 2004, as a precaution against the SARS virus. (Image: Reuters)

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 is still fresh in our memories.

SARS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus. It begins with a high fever and body pains, a flu like symptoms. Patients may develop a dry cough and most of them develop pneumonia. It spreads from person to person like common cold.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared SARS a pandemic in March 2003. There were around 8,000 cases and 774 deaths reported globally due to the outbreak. SARS had caused more social and economic disruption than any war in the first two decades of the millennium.

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According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the cost of SARS when it comes to the lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in nominal terms, for East and Southeast Asia was about $18 billion or 0.6 percentage points of 2003. Travel, tourism and retail -- the pillars of the economy of East and South Asian countries -- were the most impacted sectors. But due to WHO’s swift response and a concerted global action, SARS was largely contained.

Why are we talking about SARS and why is it relevant?

The pneumonia outbreak in China's Wuhan city in Hubei province in December 2019, is said to have been caused by a new coronavirus, coming from the same family of viruses that caused SARS in 2003.

Chinese authorities have specifically linked the latest outbreak to a seafood market in Central Wuhan. The market was closed for environmental sanitation and disinfection.

There have been 50 cases in Wuhan (including two deaths) as well as a person with the virus in both Japan and Thailand. The numbers are steadily rising.

Many countries have issued travel alerts to people traveling to Wuhan. US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also issued in its alert asking travellers to Wuhan China from avoiding sick people and animals.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHWF) has issued an advisory for Indians travelling to China, in particular, Wuhan.

To be sure, it is still not a case for panic.

WHO has said that the source of the outbreak in Wuhan is still under investigation.

"Preliminary investigations have identified environmental samples positive for new coronavirus in Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan City, however some laboratory-confirmed patients did not report visiting this market. To date, there is no reported infection among healthcare workers in China, Thailand or Japan," WHO said in a statement.

"Additional investigations are needed to determine how the patients were infected, whether human-to-human transmission has been observed, mode(s) of transmission, the clinical spectrum of disease, and the extent of infection, including presence of subclinical cases that are undetected with current surveillance," the WHO statement added.

It is important for India to keep an eye on this development, without panicking. We cannot afford such an epidemic on Indian shores at a time when our economy is in a slowdown phase.

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First Published on Jan 19, 2020 12:41 pm
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