China and its territories have unfortunately had an unpleasant and troubling recent history with outbreaks that have not only concerned health professionals but the world at large.
Beginning with the first outbreak of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus, or ‘bird flu’, in humans occurring in Hong Kong in 1997. Infection was confirmed in 18 individuals, 6 of whom died. Infections were acquired by humans directly from chickens, without the involvement of an intermediate host. The outbreak was halted by a territory-wide slaughter of more than 1.5 million chickens at the end of December 1997.
Then came Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. Striking first in November 2002 with the death of a farmer in Guangdong, China, from a mystery flu-like virus would be the catalyst for another major epidemic in the region, as the type of pneumonia he was carrying (SARS) quickly became a pandemic.
Very quickly people started falling ill across several major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Beijing. Within a few weeks, the virus had crossed borders, initially to Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore and then much further afield. Infecting 8,096 people worldwide with approximately 774 official deaths.
Which brings us to the latest epidemic borne from Chinese lands, coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new strain of coronavirus a global public health emergency. The confirmed cases of the flu-like infection are approaching 10,000, and more than 200 people have already died. Here’s everything you need to know about coronavirus, and how you can make sure you and your family are protected.