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China Struggles to Deal with Coronavirus

Wuhan, China —(Map)

China is struggling to keep up as the number of cases of the new coronavirus continues to grow. Though there are some signs the disease is slowing, China still has more sick people than it can handle.

The disease, which is being called “2019-nCoV”, was reported in Wuhan in December. Scientists identified the virus that causes it as a coronavirus. The virus can cause fever and pneumonia.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope.
(Source: CDC/Dr. Fred Murphy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Coronaviruses
Coronaviruses are viruses that have a spiky ring around them like a crown when viewed with a powerful microscope. Though there are many coronaviruses which affect animals, until recently, only six coronaviruses were known to affect humans. Four of these cause common colds. The other two cause more serious lung illnesses, and can be deadly.

At first, the Chinese government didn’t treat the disease seriously, and even punished Li Wenliang, a doctor who tried to warn other doctors about the disease.

By mid-January, the Chinese government understood the situation more clearly. The government took the extreme step of closing off around 50 million people in Wuhan and cities near it. By that time, nearly 5 million people had already left Wuhan.

Epidemic prevention inspection at Qujiang toll station in Bota
In mid-January, the Chinese government took the extreme step of closing off around 50 million people in Wuhan and cities near it. By that time, nearly 5 million people had already left the area. Above, health workers check for the disease at a toll booth.
(Source: Liuxingy [CC BY-SA], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Since then, the disease has spread to all parts of China, and over 25 other countries. The number of known cases has risen to 40,522. The number of deaths is 910. Almost all the cases and deaths are in China.

Though the spread of the disease and the deaths have been a big part of the news, experts believe that about 82% of the people who get the illness have only mild complaints. So far, 3,301 people have recovered after having had the disease, far more than the number of deaths.

A nurse measuring the body temperature for outpatients in Hubei TCM Hospital
In China, especially near Wuhan, there are so many sick people that there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, or medical equipment to test and care for them all. Above, a nurse checks a patient’s body temperature in a hospital in Hubei.
(Source: China News Service/中国新闻网 [CC BY], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Still, the disease is serious, and experts warn that there are probably many unreported cases. In China, especially near Wuhan, there are so many sick people that there aren’t enough doctors, nurses, or medical equipment to test and care for them all.

China recently built two new hospitals in Wuhan, adding 2,500 beds, but that’s still not enough. Hospitals are also running out of the materials needed to test for the disease. Scientists are working to find a faster test, since the current test takes days to complete.

Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital under construction
China recently built two new hospitals in Wuhan, adding 2,500 beds, but that’s still not enough. The picture shows work beginning on Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital. It was finished in about 10 days.
(Source: China News Service/中国新闻网 [CC BY], via Wikimedia Commons.)

China’s efforts to contain the virus may be working. It is too early to tell for sure, but there are some signs that the growth of the disease may be slowing. Experts believe that within two or three weeks they’ll have a better idea of whether the disease has been slowed.

In China, many people are angry about the way the government handled the situation. That anger exploded recently after Dr. Li, who warned about the coronavirus, died from the disease. People have been speaking out in spite of the Chinese government’s tight controls over the internet.

Li Wenliang
In China, many people are angry about the way the government handled the situation. That anger exploded recently after Dr. Li Wenliang (above), who warned about the coronavirus, died from the disease.
(Source: WikimediaCommons.org.)

Most people believe that if the government had acted on Mr. Li’s information, instead of trying to keep it quiet, many lives could have been saved.

In the rest of the world, the impact has been far less severe. Other countries have had far fewer cases, and much more time to react and put safety measures in place.

Diamond Princess seen from Mount Asama around port of Toba in Toba, Mie Prefecture, Japan.
In Japan, 3,700 people have been kept on a cruise ship called “Diamond Princess” (shown above in December) for six days after 2019-nCoV was found on the boat. So far there have been 69 cases found on the ship.
(Source: Alpsdake [CC BY-SA], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Asian countries near China have the highest numbers of cases. In Japan, 3,700 people have been kept on a cruise ship for six days after 2019-nCoV was found on the boat. So far there have been 69 cases found on the ship.



Did You Know…?

One unexpected problem related to the coronavirus is people spreading false information about it on the internet. Some people have been making up stories about how the disease started and giving dangerous suggestions for ways to “treat” it.

It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re only paying attention to sources of information you can trust.

Wuhan, China


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