JUBA – A deadly yet mysterious virus which seems to have originated at the Chinese city of Wuhan has spread beyond the confines of the country as various countries brace themselves for the potential of an outbreak, including South Sudan.
According to an official ‘situation’ report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus’ outbreak has reached the US, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand through a number of confirmed cases.
Yesterday, the virus reached the EU countries.
Considering the number of affected jumped from 1 to 440 in less than three weeks, the World Health Organization is to decide on declaring it a global health emergency on Wednesday.
How did it start
Chinese authorities noted 44 cases of a pneumonia-like illness on December 31 which was then communicated to the WHO national office.
Days later, the National Health Commission China associated the outbreak of the virus to exposure within a popular seafood market in Wuhan City, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
Since then, the market has been closed by authorities for environmental sanitation and disinfection and other markets have been inspected by authorities.
Almost 20 days later, the virus had spread to other countries through private travelling individuals whose health status had been unconfirmed.
What we know about it
The virus – which is also officially known as 2019-nCoV – is considered a strain of the coronavirus.
The WHO defines the latter as “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases”.
Two well-known strains of the coronavirus, which have caused outbreaks more than 10 years ago were Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers).
This particular 2020 strain manifests itself in the form of pneumonia and flu-like symptoms, affecting those with poor health and an already weakened immune system the most.
It has affected 13 provinces in China, with noted cases in Beijing and Shanghai where large activities of trade and travel operate on a daily basis.
Could it reach South Sudan?
With the celebrations of Chinese New Year underway, many Chinese citizens and expats are known to travel inside and outside the country, visiting family particularly in remote villages and smaller cities.
Despite this, Chinese authorities have instructed citizens to not travel to and from Wuhan where the coronavirus is known to have originated.
However, as there have been already confirmed cases across seas, namely in the US, the outbreak is expected to reach other countries as well although governments are taking preventive action.
Speaking to reporters in Juba on Thursday, South Sudan Health Minister Riek Gai Kok said passengers entering South Sudan will undergo thorough screening for the new virus before being allowed into the country.
Currently, there are no direct flights from Juba to Wuhan, but there are several between the South Sudanese and Chinese capitals.