Cases of pneumonia caused by a new virus emerging in China, the coronavirus, are spreading. Quickly implementing preventive measures against infection is needed.
The new type of pneumonia was first confirmed in the city of Wuhan in China’s central province of Hubei. The outbreak is presumed to have originated in wild animals sold at a market in the city.
There have been an increasing number of infected persons, with cases discovered in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong Province. In Wuhan, the outbreak has killed some victims, leaving many others in serious or critical condition. Cases of human-to-human infection have also been confirmed.
The coronavirus is a pathogen that triggers cold symptoms and pneumonia. The prevalence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 was attributed to the coronavirus.
Although the strain of the virus that has caused the ongoing epidemic is believed to be less likely to cause a serious condition, caution remains a must.
Cases of infection have also been confirmed in areas outside China, including Japan, South Korea and Thailand. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee meeting.
In the past, China came under international criticism for delaying the release of information about the extent of harm caused by the SARS outbreak. It should strive to quickly and accurately disclose information about the ongoing situation. Relevant organizations in various nations should cooperate to analyze the routes and mechanisms of infection, utilizing their findings to deal with the situation.
China enters a long holiday season on Friday, ahead of the celebration of the Lunar New Year on Saturday. Many Chinese tourists are expected to visit Japan.
It is indispensable to take thorough border control measures to identify any infected persons at airports or ports, among others, when they are about to enter Japan.
Steps include using thermographic equipment to discover people who have fevers, as well as having anyone in poor physical condition report to a quarantine station. The health condition of travelers from infected areas in particular should be checked.
However, there is a limit to what such border control operations can achieve. A case in point is the man who has been confirmed to be the first case of the new-type pneumonia in Japan.
He had taken fever-reducing medications when he entered Japan from China, so his infection went undetected at an airport.
It is important to make accommodation facilities, among others, fully aware that they should urge tourists to immediately seek consultations at medical institutions if they show such symptoms as coughing and having a fever after entering Japan.
It is also important for everyone to make efforts to protect themselves from infection. Viruses may adhere to one’s hands, but frequent hand-washing can prevent them from getting into one’s body. Disinfecting hands with alcohol-based sanitizer is also good for that purpose.
Anyone who experiences coughing or sneezing should wear a sanitary mask to prevent the spread of infection, a minimal standard of practice to be kept in mind.
Many experts believe the virus causing the new type of pneumonia is less infectious than an influenza virus.
While not becoming excessively frightened by the spreading virus, everyone is advised to pay attention to their sanitary condition every day.
— This article appeared in the print version of The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 22, 2020.