Fighting Virus Outbreak Using Technology
Viruses are microscopic organisms that exist almost everywhere on earth which are diagnosed with the latest technology. They can infect animals, plants, fungi, and even bacteria. Sometimes a virus can cause disease so deadly that it is fatal. Other viral infections trigger no noticeable reaction. A virus may also have one effect on one type of organism, but a different effect on another. This explains how a virus that affects a cat may not affect a dog. (Image © Shutterstock)
When viruses infect us, they can embed small chunks of their genetic material in our DNA. Although infrequent, the incorporation of this material into the human genome has been occurring for millions of years, according to the Sciencedaily.
As a result of this ongoing process, viral genetic material comprises nearly 10 percent of the modern human genome. Over time, the vast majority of viral invaders populating our genome have mutated to the point that they no longer lead to active infections.
Almost every ecosystem on Earth contains viruses. Before entering a cell, viruses exist in a form known as virions. During this phase, they are roughly one-hundredth the size of a bacterium and consist of two or three distinct parts:
• Genetic material, either DNA or RNA
• A protein coat, or capsid, which protects the genetic information
• A lipid envelope is sometimes present around the protein coat when the virus is outside of the cell
Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCOV)
According to the WHO, Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronavirus Outbreak in China
In December 2019, pneumonia associated with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) emerged in Wuhan, China. Wuhan is a city of more than 11 million residents and is connected to other cities in China via high-speed railway and frequent commercial airline flights.
The new Coronavirus is thought to have originated in the food market of the central China metropolis. It has spread to about two dozen countries and put health authorities on high alert around the world. Most of the deaths have been in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the capital. Unfortunately, the deaths and cases are likely to rise until the outbreak is contained.
Status of Confirmed Cases in Mainland China
As of February 1, 2020, 7:00 PM EST
Scientists are racing to understand just how bad things could get with a pneumonia-like disease that first appeared in China and slowing spreading to other countries.
To avoid spreading this Coronavirus to other countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the growing Coronavirus outbreak in China to be a global health emergency. It’s a recognition that the outbreak — now with more than 12,000 cases — may continue to spread beyond China, and that the nations of the world should lend their assistance and be prepared to safeguard their citizen.
How do I protect myself from this new Virus?
Disease outbreaks are a bit like fires. The virus is the flame. Susceptible people are fuel. Eventually, a fire burns itself out if it runs out of kindling. A virus outbreak will end when it stops finding susceptible people to infect. Of course, we need to follow guidelines as stipulated by WHO and respective countries.
We are still in the early days of this outbreak and there is much uncertainty in both the scale of the outbreak, as well as key epidemiological information regarding transmission.
However, the rapidity of the growth of cases since the recognition of the outbreak is much greater than that observed in outbreaks of either SARS or MERS-CoV.
An outbreak can also end with the invention of a new vaccine: But even in the fastest scenario, that could take months not later than years. “So it really comes down to how good individual public health agencies are at detecting cases, getting them to care, putting them into isolation, and how good the people who are infected are at their own hygiene,” Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, says.
According to the World Health Organization, the common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. Rarer, more severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and in the most extreme, death. Symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days, or as long as 14, after exposure.
WHO’s standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:
• Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
• When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands;
• Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough;
• If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
• When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of a novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
• The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
The CDC recommends:
• Washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. An alcohol-based sanitizer can work in the absence of soap and water.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home when you’re sick.
• Cover your mouth when you cough, or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Can Technology Help Fight New Diseases, like the Coronavirus?
Technology, combined with human expertise, will transform industries. Healthcare and medical research are two areas that are most ripe for disruption, so when new diseases emerge, like the deadly Coronavirus, it’s time for technology to put its money where its mouth is. This indeed needs of the hour as this virus has spread in China like anything.
The following are some inspiring examples of technologies that are being used in China to combat this deadly virus.
Robots in China join the battle against Coronavirus
According to Shine, the robots are used at some hospitals in Shanghai, Wuhan, and Beijing in initial inquiries, diagnosis, ward nursing, disinfection, cleaning, and other tasks. It relieves the overpressure and risks on stained health care officials. The robot, which has been tested at the hospital already, uses 5G and cloud computing. It can deal with some nursing and disinfection duties inwards.
Also at Peking University Shougang Hospital, two robots are on duty in consulting and pharmacy rooms. Some robots have been delivered to Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, according to developer OrionStar. OrionStar robots help doctors diagnose patients while delivering drugs and testing sheets, relieving the risk of infection in hospitals.
Technology Companies Offer Free Online Consultation
To help medical professionals in containing this virus, one should stay at home or office wherever he or she located. Several health-care companies are offering online consultation to avoid person to person contact for people who are worried about their health during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.
A number of online health-care providers are offering online diagnosis for people with mild symptoms amid the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak. Weiyi Group, AliHealth, and Ping An Good Doctor are among the companies offering free online consultation for those with respiratory or flu symptoms. Nearly more than 13,000 doctors are available to give advice to Weiyi users on its smartphone app.
Ping An Good Doctor said a 24-hour hotline (400 181 9191) has been in place since January 26 to provide free advice for Wuhan residents under the guidance of local health care authorities, a measure to avoid face to face contact and overcrowding at hospitals for those who fear they have symptoms of pneumonia.
Tech giants such as Alibaba and Baidu offer Artificial Intelligence (AI) gene sequencing tools to help fight the China Coronavirus outbreak. China Mobile has spent 60 million yuan (US$8.6 million) on coverage of the hospitals, including the latest 5G services. Free films, music, and education resources are being offered by tech companies to keep people at home comfortably.
Liat Goldhammer-Steinberg, CTO of Sonovia Ltd. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Accordingly to the Jerusalem Post, an Israeli tech start-up is also in this race of supporting the people in China. The company believes that their initiative will help stop the spread of deadly Coronavirus by shipping meters of anti-pathogen fabric to produce face masks, hospital apparel and protective clothing to China.
It shows that there is no boundary for offering help or support for the noble cause. This is really an inspiring example of humanity during this epidemic!