Wuhan Coronavirus Update: January 26th, 2020

Time for my daily update on the evolving Wuhan coronavirus (more formally known as 2019-nCoV, or novel coronavirus) situation. Again, I will be providing links to credible, authoritative information, as well as a bit of analysis, and some predictions of what will happen next, both within China and globally as the virus spreads. (I plan to write up a daily blogpost on my blog as the situation develops.)

What You Need to Know About 2019-nCoV

The South China Morning Post reported this morning:

Ma Xiaowei, the minister in charge of China’s National Health Commission (NHC), told a press conference that battling the outbreak was complicated, particularly as it had been discovered that the new virus could be transmitted even during incubation period, which did not happen with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

“From observations, the virus is capable of transmission even during incubation period,” Ma said, adding that the incubation period lasted from one to 14 days.

“Some patients have normal temperatures and there are many milder cases. There are hidden carriers,” he said.

Al Jazeera news reports that the virus appears to be becoming more contagious as it spreads from person to person, which will make containment even more difficult:

China’s National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei said the incubation period for the virus can range from one to 14 days, during which infection can occur, which was not the case with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

SARS was a coronavirus that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003.

“According to recent clinical information, the virus’ ability to spread seems to be getting somewhat stronger,” Ma told reporters.

Infographic Explaining 2019-nCoV Infection (source)

The New York Times reports that Chinese government bureaucracy may be partly to blame for the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus:

China’s rigid bureaucracy discourages local officials from raising bad news with central bosses and it silos officials off from one another, making it harder to manage, or even see, a crisis in the making.

“That’s why you never really hear about problems emerging on a local scale in China,” said John Yasuda, who studies China’s approach to health crises at Indiana University. “By the time that we hear about it, and that the problem reaches the central government, it’s because it’s become a huge problem.”

Those systemic flaws appear to have played a role in the pace at which officials responded to the outbreak, and the country’s inability to address the health risks from its so-called wet markets, which are stuffed with livestock living and dead, domesticated and wild.

China is now mobilizing a nationwide response involving hundreds of personnel, one of the system’s strengths.

According to TIME, China has now imposed travel restrictions on some 50 million people, an absolutely unprecedented measure:

China cut off trains, planes and other links to Wuhan on Wednesday, as well as public transportation within the city, and has steadily expanded a lockdown to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million — greater than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined.

What Can We Expect?

So, what can we expect in the coming days and weeks, as the virus begins to accelerate within China and more cases start popping up abroad?

However, if other governments can successfully contain the cases which are being reported outside China (as appears to be the case in Toronto, which yesterday evening reported the first Canadian patient infected with 2019-nCoV), then the rest of the world might be able to avoid the kind of things we are currently seeing happen in various Chinese cities and provinces, according to mainstream news reports and social media:

  • The shutdown of many places where people gather, such as festivals, theatres, marketplaces, etc.;
  • The closing of schools, businesses, and public transportation;
  • People imposing self-quarantine within their homes in an effort to avoid becoming sick.

It is easy to read the headlines and feel anxiety, dread, even a sense of panic. Panic is absolutely the last thing we need right now; if you are not in China, you still have a window of opportunity to take action and prepare for a potential global pandemic. Use that nervous energy and put it towards concrete tasks that will help you get ready. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

For example, yesterday I went to the pharmacy and renewed all of my prescriptions, and stocked up on a few essentials like toilet paper and garbage bags. The Personal Health Preparedness Guidelines issues by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control offer useful, practical lists of things to buy to best prepare for an emergency situation such as this. Look them over, draw up a shopping list, and stock up on what you need, should you be forced to stay at home for a week or two. Don’t panic; prepare.

Good Sources of Information on 2019-nCoV

Here are some credible, official sources of information on the Wuhan coronavirus:

If you want a quick overview of what’s going on, the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University has created a statistics panel with the latest information at a glance, drawing from credible, official case reports from health agencies worldwide.

Sources of Fast-Breaking News on 2019-nCoV (WARNING: May Not Be 100% Credible!)

PLEASE READ: In addition to the sources listed in the previous section, there are other places you can check, which might have reports (including translated links to local social media in China) that have not yet made the mainstream news media. Please keep in mind that the situation in China is chaotic, and that some of the information you find in the sources I list below might be gossip, rumours, misinformation, or disinformation! If you are already feeling anxious, I would recommend you avoid these sources, but if, like me, you want to get a fuller picture of what’s going on, then I provide the links below.

Stay healthy!

UPDATED! Wuhan Coronavirus Update: January 25th, 2020

The first close-up images of the Wuhan coronavirus were released on Friday. Photo: Chinese Centre For Disease Control And Prevention (source)

Sorry, guys, but I am going to be continuing to post about the Wuhan coronavirus situation on this blog. Given my background as a flu prepper, and despite my attempts to inject some laughter into previous potential pandemics, everything I have seen and read so far indicates that this is situation which requires all hands on deck.

Given that this blog gets between 600 and 6,000 views per day, I am hoping that I can use my little soapbox to help bring other people up-to-speed as to what is happening out there in the real world. Yes, we in virtual worlds do tend sometimes to use them to escape aspects of reality that we would rather not have to deal with. I am certainly guilty of this myself, and I suspect some of you, my readers, are as well.

But as a librarian who works at a university science library, I owe it to you to make sure that you are connected to the best, most up-to-date sources of information to make the best decisions. So here goes. Expect a new blogpost with updated information and links every day.

First: You Need to Put Things Into Perspective

To put the current crisis into some historical perspective, and to understand terms being thrown around such as R0, read this informative 2014 article by the World Economic Forum, How Ebola compares with other diseases, which obviously does not talk about the Wuhan virus, but discusses and compares previous epidemics and pandemics over the years. At this point, we do not yet know the R0 of the Wuhan coronavirus (which is essentially, a measure of how easy it is to catch it from an infected person). Scientists are working to figure that out as soon as possible, however, based on the early spread of cases.

Second: You Need to Prepare

Watch this one-and-half-minute video from TIME magazine, excerpts from an interview with Hong Kong infectious disease expert Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, explaining in a calm and credible way why you need to take this situation seriously:

I’m just going to cut and paste a good argument posted to the China_Flu subReddit discussion group:

I’ve noticed that there are two dominant mindsets on this sub when it comes to gathering emergency supplies.

Group 1 thinks something like, “It’s fear-mongering to suggest anyone go out and get supplies. It’s paranoid to go get emergency supplies.”

Group 2 thinks something like, “The world is about to end and so I need as many supplies as possible. Why won’t people recognize the emergency and give real advice?”

I figured that linking to what the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has already recommended for ages might be helpful.

Group 1 needs to understand that the CDC wants literally everyone to have emergency supplies even at the best of times, and has already tried over and over again to convince people to prepare for emergencies, including specific emergencies like flu pandemic, which they have explicitly mentioned many times. The only problem they’d have with you running out to get a hand cranked radio is that they think you should’ve gotten one a long time ago, not that they think preparation is paranoid.

Group 2 will have some actual guidance instead of just getting told to stop freaking out. Or instead of being swept up by actual paranoid suggestions like bankrupting themselves to order hazmat suits in bulk. The CDC does not recommend that everyone have a bizillion N95 masks, but they do recommend many things that lots of us might not even think about beforehand. (Like: how good is your can opener? Because canned food is no good if you struggle to open it.)

If you are in Group 1, likely nothing I say is going to convince you to prepare until it’s too late. If you are in Group 2, like me, someone who went crazy during the bird flu scare and stocked up on face masks, tinned food, and Tamiflu (which, by the way, will be completely useless against the Wuhan coronavirus), then some actual, credible guidance on what to buy is a good idea.

Here is the CDC’s Guide to Personal Health Preparedness, which includes sections with handy shopping lists on:

  • Personal needs (food, water, toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.)
  • Prescriptions (essentially, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medications, and stock up on some over-the-counter medications)
  • Power sources (flashlight, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, a battery-operated or hand-crank radio)

Third: You Need to Stay Informed

The University of California San Francisco published this excellent article, an interview with infectious disease expert Dr. Charles Chiu: As Mysterious Coronavirus Spreads, An Infectious Disease Expert Explains What You Should Know:

Right now, we don’t know the transmission efficiency for the new virus. A case was reported from China where one patient apparently infected 14 health care workers at the hospital, and it’s possible that some patients, known as super spreaders, are more infectious than others. We don’t know whether that particular patient was a super spreader or whether this reflects the fact that this virus is already very efficient at human-to-human transmission.

Based on the reports, the symptoms of respiratory infection from 2019-nCoV are very similar to those from other coronaviruses: nasal congestion, headache, cough, sore throat and a fever. In some patients, these symptoms can worsen into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. If you’re elderly, immunocompromised, or if you have other comorbidities such as heart disease, liver disease, you are at higher risk of developing severe pneumonia and dying from the disease.

We also know that there are documented cases of human-to-human transmission as shown by the hospital-acquired cases, and evidence of sustained cycles of transmission, as evidenced by secondary infections in household members who were not exposed to the markets from which the initial cases originated. We also know that there have been deaths from this virus, the majority in older men with underlying health problems, but also in a healthy young man. So it’s definitely something to worry about.

Again, I stress: all the experts are telling you that you need to take this seriously.

Now, if you want a single-screen, up-to-date statistics panel, which shows you the current information on the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, you’re in luck! The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University has created a panel with the latest information (updated every day at noon EST), including a global map of reported cases which you can zoom in and out on:

Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Global Cases (by Johns Hopkins University)

Here are a few other good, credible sources of information on the Wuhan coronavirus:

In addition to these official sources, there are two other places you can check, which might have reports (including translated links to local social media in China) that have not yet made the mainstream news media. Please keep in mind that some of the information you find here might be gossip, rumours, misinformation, or disinformation!

Stay healthy!