The infection count and the death toll of the novel coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China continues to rise by the day. As of Saturday, it is reported that almost 1,300 are already infected in China alone, with 41 people confirmed dead – including a Chinese doctor treating infected patients, reports The Guardian.

Fear of global pandemic ensues as countries race against time to contain the spread of the virus. As of late, confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus were already reported in different countries such as the USA, France, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia.

Preventing the spread of the virus proved to be an even harder task as millions of Chinese Travel for the celebration of the Lunar New Year.

Lockdowns and travel restrictions

Authorities worldwide are already working to prevent further spread of the highly contagious virus, especially in time for the Lunar New Year when billions of Chinese usually travel to spend time with family.

In the province of Hubei in central China, termed as the outbreak's epicenter, lockdowns have already been set to hopefully stop it from further spreading. At least 56 million residents are affected after travel restrictions are placed in 18 cities in Hubei alone, Aljazeera reports. There is now reduced access to roads and public transport, and multiple Lunar New Year celebrations were canceled in different cities in China as a precaution.

The usual buzz brought about by the festivities is now replaced with scenes similar to that of a ghost town as establishments get shutdown.

In Hong Kong, a health emergency was declared after 5 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus were detected. School cancellations are effective until February 17th and official visits to mainland China are halted.

Flights and public transport going to and from Wuhan are also suspended.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advised to "avoid nonessential travel" to Wuhan – issuing a Level 3 travel warning.

In the Philippines, nearly 500 Chinese tourists are set to be deported back to Wuhan to stop the possible spread of the virus in the country.

They also imposed travel bans for flights going to Wuhan.

North Korea also banned tourists from entering the country, especially those coming from China.

Screenings and quarantine checks of arriving passengers in airports around the world, such as in Japan, the USA, South Korea, Nigeria, and Italy are also being done as efforts to contain the disease.

The origin

The novel coronavirus was first detected in a wet market in Wuhan City, China. The said market, considered as ground zero of the virus, engaged in the trade and slaughter of wild animals before it got shutdown.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology published a scientific paper centered on the novel coronavirus and found out that it was a 96% match to the virus known to thrive in bats.

It is also theorized that snakes could be a source, but bats remain as the prime suspects since snakes are known to prey on them. This makes much more sense considering that in the market that was considered as ground zero, a common delicacy of bat soup was made and sold.

It could be recalled that other deadly diseases that caused large-scale outbreaks, such as SARS, MERS, and Ebola were also found to have links with bats.

Symptoms, preventive measures

According to the USA's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that causes respiratory illnesses that could range from mild to severe, such as the common cold and the flu, to pneumonia and bronchitis that could be fatal especially for people with weak immune systems, children, and people with old age.

Symptoms brought about by the coronavirus include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and throat pain. CDC reports that these symptoms may manifest within 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. In worst cases, the coronavirus could result in kidney failure and even death.

There is currently no known cure or vaccine for the virus, and if ever there is going to be one, this will most likely several years to complete. Currently, infected patients are only treated based on their given symptoms.

As there is no specific treatment for the virus itself, it is highly advised to just follow preventive measures to avoid getting infected with the disease. The number one rule to this, as CDC reports, is to avoid exposure and close contact to the virus and anyone infected.

Extra efforts to have clean hygiene is a must in order to be safe. This includes disinfecting everyday items that one uses; and the frequent washing of hands or the use of alcohol-based sanitizers. Face covering when coughing or sneezing is also a must.

Touching the eyes, nose, and mouth should also be avoided especially when hands are unclean. It is also recommended to use face masks when going out and engaging in crowds as a precaution. Viral droplets in the air may linger for a while after an infected person coughs or sneezes, and could be easily absorbed to infect a new one.

If sick, it is best to isolate yourself to prevent the further spreading of the virus and to contact a healthcare provider for immediate medical assistance.

New hospital for the "infected"

In what seems like a race against time, Wuhan started to build a 1,000-bed hospital that would be dedicated to treating patients infected with the coronavirus. The hospital will not just help tackle the outbreak in the city but would also serve as a quarantine ground to prevent it from further spreading from person to person. Protective gears will also be sufficiently supplied to avoid risks of transmission to the medical personnel. The project is expected to be done in 6 to 10 days.

The scene is reminiscent of when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS caused an outbreak in 2003, with Beijing also building a hospital dedicated to the treatment of the infected. It could be noted that SARS also belongs in the family of coronaviruses.