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Arresting the outbreak

Arresting the outbreak

The outbreak of the new virus has pushed the world to the edge. With the virus now detected in around 24 countries, despite travel bans and screening centres in place, the start to a new decade seems to have been jinxed. Yet, efforts have been made to identify, contain and treat cases as the outbreak inches towards a pandemic. At a time when the novel Coronavirus (nCoV) has gripped China and slowly spreading to other nations, Wuhan's expeditiously constructed Huoshenshan Hospital is something to take note of. Built in response to the nCoV outbreak, it is the second time China has responded to the pressing need on a war footing. Back in '03, during the SARS outbreak, the Chinese took a week to set up a dedicated hospital for the outbreak in Beijing. With 1,400 doctors, nurses and other personnel deployed by the Chinese Army to staff the new Wuhan hospital, as China gears up to combat the deadly new virus that has gripped the entire city, infecting around 17,000 and killing more than 360 people. Equipped with 30 intensive care units, almost half of the hospital is dedicated to isolation wards. With nCoV overtaking SARS in terms of fatality counts, apprehensions may have risen but the Chinese Health Commission also confirmed 475 recoveries. Recoveries have reinstated a sense of hope amongst those in the medical fraternity that the virus can be combatted and defeated, and does not appear to be as deadly as SARS. Nevertheless, Chinese efforts to combat the outbreak have several takeaways for other nations. Further, to complement the 1,000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital, a second facility with 1,500 beds is expected to be completed this week in Wuhan only. But these expedited efforts come at the cost of thousands that are silently suffering within Wuhan. A city of 11-million is bound to find it hard to dodge the virus, especially after China imposed travel restrictions in place and practically quarantined the province.

Following WHO's announcement of nCoV as a global outbreak, in a quick decision, India successfully managed to evacuate 600 of its citizens from the outbreak's epicentre and brought them to a quarantine facility set up by the army. While three cases have been reportedly confirmed in India, the situation seems to be very much in control. With screening centres at airports serving as the first line of defence, the scope of nCoV cases entering India has been narrowed down. A travel advisory and notification to all states and UTs to prepare isolation wards in case the need arises has been done in view of controlling the spread of the virus in the country. Cases of misinformation about the virus — from racist explanations for the disease's origin to false claims about miracle cures — have also been doing rounds and that is where the government must step up and disseminate information regarding the nCoV. Through advisories in public interest, social media, radio, media, etc., the objective must be to apprise people about the virus and ensure prevention is undertaken. Through infographics, WHO is leading the awareness campaign by busting myths regarding the virus which can be shared so that a vast section of people become aware of the same. If the two pillars of prevention and awareness are strengthened, a major part of the battle against the deadly virus will be won already since the main stress point vis-à-vis these viruses is always the dreadful prospect of proliferation.

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