China's Coronavirus Is Spreading. But How?

Short Wave


Deadly new virus has cropped up in China the dramatic surge in cases of a deadly mystery virus. It's something called a corona virus. The pneumonia like illness originated in central. Insult China there are actually many types of corona viruses. This one causes fever dry. Cough difficulty breathing. Diarrhea and body aches the the number of infected exploded over the weekend. Hundreds of people have been infected Chinese officials taking every precaution to contain the virus and as of Thursday afternoon. We're recording this workers outside of the local hospital in bio suits. Seventeen people have died or good afternoon governor. Jay inslee governor of the state of Washington on top up of all of that. We're here to give a brief into the public regarding the novel. rotavirus on Tuesday officials announced. It's shown up here in the United States. Patient is a man in his thirties. He is in the hospital here behind me and then later in the week. Chinese authorities closed off the city of Wuhan at the center of the outbreak. Nick wants eleven. Million people are being told they can't leave and more. Chinese cities have followed suit. Such a massive operation to restrict people moving on spreading. The disease is unprecedented. So this episode. We'll tell you what officials are saying about the origins of the virus and what we know about the likelihood that it will continue to spread Brett. I'm Mattioli and you're listening to shortwave the daily science podcast from NPR. So we're talking corona virus and here to help us do that is NPR. Reporter Jason Bogin who covers global health and development. Hey Jason Hey Mattia so this thing cropped up about a month ago and this past week China announced more cases and the number of countries where it's been found outside of China continues to grow. Oh and one big thing. We haven't mentioned yet. Is that this weekend. Is the busiest holiday travel season in China. One of the largest travel seasons in the world. Yeah it's like doc Thanksgiving and fourth of July all combined into one. Hundreds of millions of people typically travel for the Lunar New Year which is January twenty fifth man. Ah brings up something about virus. Does it spread easily amongst people who are on trains. We don't exactly know the Chinese government has said it appears to be respiratory Tori. But they haven't been able to confirm that that is exactly the route of transmission at the moment and how communicable is how likely it is if people are sitting next next which other on buses and planes and trains that it could spread right. Okay so let's back up and explain what we do know. Starting with where it started the city city of Wuhan in central China yet so all indications are pointing to this wholesale meat market in Wuhan. It's a place where they have live. Animals that are slaughtered. There's also fish that are sold there as well as meet and the idea is that the corona virus and seems to be what have hap has happened jumped from one of fold animals in the market over to humans. And at this point we don't know exactly what animal that is. We don't as one of the big questions that still out there. If you remember SARS that big outbreak started in two thousand two was really big in two thousand and three. It's called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome now is also corona virus. Chris and it spread all over the world. Almost eight hundred people were killed before eventually stamped out and health officials in China say that this current virus doesn't look his deadliest that but it's still really serious for SARS. It was these palm. Civic cats that were being sold in AL markets in China and once that was identified identified then the Chinese government banned the sale of civic cats. That's Matthew Freeman urologist at the University of Maryland. School of Medicine Right. Okay so I wanNA talk a little bit about how a virus like this can jump from animal to human because it's not often explained super clearly. Yeah so a key. Part of that jump is when a virus mutates and and when people talk about mutations and viruses. What they're talking about is something that actually happens? Naturally when a virus replicates right so viruses loved to make lots of little copies of themselves elves and when they do they can make little mistakes during that and knows can change who or what the virus can infect. That's right and Matthew Freeman that Corologis. He thinks that SARS actually started out in bats and it mutated jumped over two those civic cats and then eventually got into people all and here's how he described it as these viruses replicate in these in bats day mutate a bit and if the wrong bat and the wrong other animal become in contact potentially usually when they're caught in the wild whether they're brought onto farms than it can jump into that species and often times. What we found is that the virus needs a little bit more mutational events to happen where can replicate in this intermediate animal before it can jump into people so in the case of SARS it started in bats takes a little bit jumps into cats mutates more jumps into humans right and there are other types of corona viruses that exist in birds in rodents are in camels. But in this case it's proving difficult to figure out what the exact animal source is this corona virus right which brings us back to that market in and Wuhan where they think it all started yet. We spoke to this Guy Kevin Olive oil. WHO's the VP research at the public health? Nonprofit it's called ECO health alliance as been to a lot of markets like this one in in Southeast Asia and he said they can have a wide variety of animals some of them while domestic and it creates a kind of melting pot. Where it's possible for these viruses to jump between species when the animals are alive in the market? They're stressed out. There's a lot of contact with feces and saliva and in terms of butchering the animals. With blood you know. It's pretty chaotic. It's not ed clean as you would think and There's a lot of contact with animals and animal fluids and body parts and so you can imagine in that Type of environment. Yeah it's really hard to zero in on one particular animal as a source You know in this instance. There's some question about how careful the Chinese government has been among in dealing with this way. Once they found out that there was this big problem they went in and cleaned everything. Up in some of the researchers are a little bit Upset set that a lot of potentially useful evidence got destroyed in this effort to just clean up this market right. They kind of reacted quickly and now makes it harder to trace that. Yes now the scientist just because they did that clean up. The sizes are playing catch up there sampling animals and other markets. Trying to see if they have the virus and in the meantime there could potentially still be animals most spreading this type of virus in other markets in China right and then of course beyond that they're saying it's now spreading not just from animals to humans but from one human human to another. Do we have any other clues about that. Human to human spread. That's happening. This is one of the big questions that still out there. What is the human to human spread doesn't have have to be really close? Contact is spreading through the air. We talk to this epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine. David Heymann. He says one clue is that there seems to be many clusters of infected people who all belong to the same family and they've had intense contact with an infected person it. It doesn't seem that the current virus spreads very easily face to face with a cough or a sneeze but even said we still don't know what sheriff the infections happen through. These family. Clusters this case in Washington state. That patient says he didn't visit any of these markets. He doesn't recall coming into contact with anyone who was was sick rain and also brings up another thing. That's kind of concerning which is that at least fifteen. Healthcare workers in the city of Wuhan a reportedly among people who've been inspected and that's always an evil omen within emerging infection because health workers. See a disease may think it's a common pneumonia. They're not as careful. They should be in washing their hands or in patient care and as a result they then get infected and then it spreads within the hospital or can spread to their families and then into the community so so hell in the concern. Is that those workers who may not know that they're actually infected with the virus and feel healthy actually are this phenomenon known as super spreaders people who end up actually infecting a lot of other people. And we've seen this in the SARS outbreak there. There were some super spreaders. There are some key people who ended up spreading the virus to a lot of other people and in that really contributed to the spread of SARS globally. So the question is are there super spreaders with this virus. We don't really know that yet. Gotcha and in the meantime when the CDC announced it confirmed that there's that American patient it also so announced screening at certain airports here in the states right and as we talked about airports We should mention screenings were implemented during the SARS outbreak. They didn't have much of an impact on containing SARS that said the. CDC screening is happening now at airports in La San Francisco New York Atlanta Atlanta Chicago and basically passengers off a plane with a fever or they seem to have cold like symptoms. They're going to be taken aside for health screening testing now You know even the best case that's GonNa take our Z.. Samples getting sent back to the CDC in Atlanta. So if you're flying for me you're going to be routed into one of these airports where they're are able to check you and see if you're showing signs of having this disease. Gotcha okay so Jason. Yeah this is obviously getting a lot of attention get right now now what our public health officials and journalists like yourself the most worried about look the the worst case scenario is an airborne flu that spreads rapidly around the world has maybe a long incubation period. gets out there and then kills lots of people. Yeah that's not really what we're seeing at the moment went But it is still concerning because you are getting spread that we don't know exactly how it's happening so that's what's most concerning installment that we don't know how it's spreading and we don't no the underlying number of people who've been infected or how long that incubation period which could mean we've got a whole slew of them coming down the fire shirt okay Jason Boban update you're welcome will link to NPR's reporting on corona virus in the notes of this episode which was produced by Brett. bachman edited by Andrea Andrea. Kasich in fact checked by Emily von.

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