Shocking scenes emanating out of China show the terrifying reality of the relatively unknown coronavirus as Australian medical authorities investigate four possible cases in NSW.
Footage shared online by Chinese news site Shanghaiist appears to show a crowded hospital in Wuhan, identified as ground zero of the outbreak, as people desperately seek help from doctors. The hospital is packed wall-to-wall with mask-wearing members of the public anxiously looking for help.
The scene at a hospital in Wuhan pic.twitter.com/3PYyNwG3Gl— Shanghaiist.com (@shanghaiist) January 24, 2020
Clips posted on Chinese social media show desperate people in hospital waiting rooms, while queues of people have reportedly been turned away.
Other unverified videos purport to show people collapsing in the street, as well as medical staff collapsing in hospitals.
Residents in Wuhan waiting to be treated. Many have been turned away, refuse treatment due to lack of capacity in the hospital, died @ home. Death # released only include those being officially diagnosed #CoronavirusOutbreak @CNNnewsroom pic.twitter.com/ryYQVZ4pQQ— Sudooboo 🧢 (@suyoutwice) January 23, 2020
Suspected coronavirus patients screened in Australia
Governments and global health agencies are racing to quarantine populations and prevent the further spread of the virus.
In the US, a patient diagnosed with contracting coronavirus was being largely treated in a small room by a robot while doctors limited contact with him and communicated with the man via a video screen, CNN reported.
It’s possible the virus has made its way to Australia, with NSW Health revealing Friday that four individuals are being screened for coronavirus in the state. The government agency said all four people were in undisclosed hospitals around the state and that none had yet been confirmed coronavirus sufferers.
Only one person – who had been in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in the past fortnight and has since come down with flu-like symptoms – had been under investigation by NSW Health on Thursday.
On Friday afternoon, shortly before 5pm, NSW Health said two cases had been cleared as safe.
Meanwhile two people in Queensland were being assessed amid concerns they may have the deadly virus, but four others who were initially considered a risk have since been cleared.
Queensland's Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, has urged anyone with symptoms of the respiratory disease to go to their doctor.
“We've already tested four individuals who were suspected cases. All four came back negative,” she told reporters on Friday.
“We've got another two suspects at the moment that we're assessing who may need testing.”
25 people confirmed dead so far
China's National Health Commission says 830 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed and 25 people have died so far as the situation threatens to become worse. Concerns of a full-blown pandemic, however, are premature, experts say.
Non-fatal cases have been found in at least seven other countries. But health officials fear the transmission rate could accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on the weekend.
“It has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one,” said World Helath Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The new coronavirus has caused alarm because it is still too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.
Because it is new, humans have not been able to build any immunity to it, and most frighteningly, China says the virus is adapting and mutating, making it difficult to get under control.
There is also evidence of respiratory transmission.
Today is the Chinese New Year eve. I have canceled my trip back to #Wuhan, and my family decided not to have any gathering. It’s an extremely distressing time and seeing these videos of despair from afar really upsets me. Praying for Wuhan. #WuhanCoronovirus pic.twitter.com/p3jperhErr— Xinyan Yu (@xinyanyu) January 23, 2020
Cities in lockdown
The previously unknown strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in Wuhan.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, is in lockdown, with urban transport shut and outgoing flights suspended.
Nearby Huanggang, a city of 7 million people, is suspending public transport and closing public venues, including movie theatres and internet cafes.
Beijing closed tourist access to the Forbidden City and cancelled large gatherings, including two Lunar New Year temple fairs.
Aussie researchers rush to develop vaccine
University of Queensland researchers are working round the clock as they race to develop a vaccine to stop people dying from the coronavirus.
The Queensland team is one of three around the world asked to plant their foot on the accelerator and use new technologies to get a vaccine onto the market fast.
If the Queensland team can replicate what they've done in labs with other viruses, including related influenza and ebola, it's possible the world could have a shield against coronavirus within six months.
The University of Queensland team is confident they'll get there with recently patented DNA-based molecular clamp technology.
It involves using the DNA sequence of the coronavirus – released by China after the outbreak – to produce a protein that's the same as the one on the surface of the actual virus.
That protein will be the essence of the vaccine, capable of generating immune system responses that protect people.
with AAP and Reuters
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