A Future Global Pandemic?
By Allison Kozicharow; Edited by Jessie Crowdy
For several weeks now, world health agencies and media outlets have been informing the public about the risks and spread of the coronavirus — 2019-nCoV — first discovered in late December in China’s Hubei Province.
The coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that include the common cold as well as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). It’s called the coronavirus because this microscopic pathogen has crown-like spikes on its surface (see photo).
WiRED International’s programs prepare communities, especially in low-resource areas, for outbreaks before they occur by educating populations in how to protect themselves from diseases, old or new, that endanger their health. Many of WiRED’s hundreds of health learning modules address specific illnesses such as MERS and Ebola or instruct communities on healthy practices such as handwashing that protect people from germs.
As of January 27, the New York Times reported more than 3,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 80 deaths from the illness. All the verified deaths from the outbreak have been in mainland China, but travelers have spread the virus to numerous other places. Countries with confirmed cases include Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, France and the United States.
It is too soon to tell if this coronavirus will lead to a full-blown pandemic, but the infections are increasing rapidly worldwide — and there is troubling evidence that people without symptoms could be spreading the virus. WiRED’s staff is watching the evolving outbreak closely and will post updates as needed in the days ahead.