There have been many Coronavirus updates since we last posted about coronavirus and travel. This situation changes daily, so please follow Interfor on LinkedIn or Facebook to stay updated. Most important update: a travel ban to China from the United States. Reported cases exceed 30,000 (and growing). Most of the infected are in China as global health experts try to contain this outbreak.
The bulk of cases are in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province, where 97% of the deaths from the virus have occurred. It is still unknown if this virus is seasonal (like the flu and will disappear in warm weather) or the ability to contain its spread. This outbreak could spread to the Western world, and while we hope global authorities can contain the virus, we should prepare for the worst on our respective home fronts. A good resource to track the virus in real time can be found on this site created by John Hopkins.
What we know and what we do not
This virus has paralyzed the Chinese economy. SARs had a similar effect, and the economy bounced back, but China was not as integrated into the global supply chain at the time. Industries including travel and oil production have already been affected. Global brands such as Starbucks and Apple have shut stores in China, and supply chains of companies such as Tesla have been disrupted.
There is much speculation about how the virus is transmitted and its incubation period, with conflicting reports on how infectious people are during the incubation period. Another concern is whether the virus can be transferred by birth, i.e. by blood (from a mother to a child); if so, a worrying development. How the virus originated is under debate, scientists initially thought the virus was transmitted from bats or snakes, and now believe pangolins, a delicacy in China, may be the animal of origin.
Fighting the virus
This novel coronavirus is more flu-like than SARS; it spreads more easily than SARS but is not as deadly, with “only” a 2% death rate. Judging from the speed in which organizations, both public and private are racing for a vaccine, a cure will most likely be found. Recently, the Chief Scientist of Johnson & Johnson declared on CNBC that he’s “pretty confident” a vaccine will be on the market within a year.
Public and private institutions are working on a vaccine, and while there is a lot of money to be made for big pharma, foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged 100 million dollars to finding a cure. Even the development of a vaccine faster than any time in history could take up to a year.
The government of China has not been forthcoming with information, judging from the spread and numbers increasing daily in and around Wuhan. This virus may have been around for some time, and the Chinese government hid this fact, or it was thought to be a standard flu (especially with milder symptoms). While there have been cases around the world, the concentration of the virus in a quarantined area may prove to be a good strategy for containing its spread.
Western and developed countries have the infrastructure to handle an outbreak, but it would tax healthcare systems. In underdeveloped countries an outbreak is much more concerning. In the end, however, we still do not know how the spread of a virus, with so many infected, would impact global healthcare systems.
As travel to China is now on pause, it is worth mentioning protective measures. Though the media has created unnecessary panic, individuals with possible symptoms are more likely to go to a doctor. A place like New York could most likely cope with an outbreak, but it’s better to be safe.
–Wash your hands with soap regularly. If there was one thing to do to stop the spread of the virus, this is it.
–Consider wearing a face mask in public places like the subway. For now, the risk of infection is low, but having a mask on hand protects you that much more.
–If you are sick stay at home; this is a good idea in general, but now the stakes are even higher
For additional resources and guidance, the Interfor team is here to help.