Coronavirus Outbreak in China – Why South-East Asia is Vulnerable?

On December 31, 2019, the WHO (World Health Organization) received the first report of the Coronavirus infections from the Wuhan city of China. The Wuhan city is in the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province. So far this virus has caused over 130 deaths and still counting.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses, commonly found in mammals. This virus got its name as Coronavirus because of crown-like spikes on its surface. This virus commonly divided into four main groups namely, alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. However, the current viral outbreak in China is cause by Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). These are positive-strand RNA viruses. Coronavirus mainly infects the respiratory system in humans causing various respiratory syndromes. Among all mammals, the greatest variety of this virus found in bats.

Vaccine Development

Since the outbreak, many Chinese research institutes and pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. However, vaccine development is not a fast process and is likely to take more 3-4 months, until it is found to be fit for Human use, post many clinical trials. The National Genomics Data Center (NGDC) has released the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) genomic database, which will help scientists across the world to study this virus and search for vaccine and/or medicine against it.

Historical Outbreaks of Coronavirus

This is not the first time coronavirus causing chaos in the world and especially China.

SARS  – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is also cause by SARS associate coronavirus (SARS-Cov). It was first report in February 2003 in China and then it spread to over two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. There were approximately 8098 cases of the syndrome and caused 774 deaths.

MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

This is the most recent outbreak in the past of coronavirus, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It was caused by the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-Cov). It was spread in several other countries in the Arabian peninsula and the US as well. About 30-40% of the patients with MERS have been report dead.

Why South-East Asia is Vulnerable?

There are many aspects that make south-east Asia vulnerable to such viral or bacterial outbreaks and other communicable diseases.

Population Density

5 out of 10 countries with the highest population in the world are present in Asia. Especially south-east Asian countries have the highest population density, making it a heaven for communicable diseases, as people live in very close proximity compared to other parts of the world.

Poor Healthcare

Despite the recent economic development of Asian countries, government spending on healthcare is not so encouraging in many developing countries. Lack of public awareness about communicable diseases and hygiene, along with inadequate healthcare facilities, making countries more vulnerable for such outbreaks.

Eating Habits

In many Asian countries, especially in China, a variety of animals and fishes are consume either alive or half-cook. Such raw food can lead to direct infections to humans by the pathogens present inside the animal which is being consume. Many researchers stated that this could be the main reason behind the current coronavirus outbreak in China as the virus would have infected humans from bats, considering the fact that bat soup is a popular dish among Chinese people and bats carry the most number of varieties of coronaviruses. 

Environment

Most of the south-east Asian countries have large coastal areas with a tropical climate. Such warm and humid conditions are suitable for most of the pathogens, responsible for communicable diseases.

All of the above factors combined make the region vulnerable to such outbreaks of Coronavirus.

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