Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

China: Epicenter of various global diseases

For Prelims:

  • Coronavirus

For Mains:

  • Reason for the origin of coronavirus

Why in the discussion?

Recently, due to the outbreak of Coronavirus in Wuhan, China, there has been a debate on the subject, why have many new deadly viruses originated in China in recent years?

Main point:

  • In recent years, China has emerged as an epicenter of viruses such as ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), bird flu and the currently dominant ‘Novel Coronavirus (nCOV’) has come.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are approximately one billion cases of zoonoses and the deaths of millions of other people globally each year.


  • Zoonosis is the effect of a disease or infection that naturally occurs from vertebrate animals to humans.
  • Animals play a role in the spread of zoonotic infections in nature.
  • Zoonosis can be bacterial, viral, or parasitic, or is related to diseases that are not traditionally prevalent.
  • As well as a public health problem, several major zoonotic diseases interfere with the production of animal foods and hinder international trade in animal products.

History of zoonosis infection:

  • Historically, many such incidents have come to light that proves that the global pandemic situation caused by zoonotic microbes is not a new problem.
  • Historically, information is available about the following zoonosis related diseases:

Justinian Plague: Marked in AD 541-542
The Black Death: Its infection was first seen in Europe in the year 1347.
Yellow fever: Infection was first observed in South America in the 16th century.
Global Influenza Pandemic: Year 1918

  • Modern pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, and H1N1 influenza have one common feature in that in all these cases the virus is transmitted from animals to humans.
  • According to WHO, zoonosis infection accounts for 60% of newly emerging infectious diseases in the world.
  • Of the more than 30 new human microbes, 75% have been transmitted from animals over the past three decades.


Why is it currently popular?

Many people have died due to coronavirus in Wuhan city of China.
Due to the infection of this virus in many countries (USA, Russia) outside China, the WHO is considering declaring an International Health Emergency.
Hubei province, located in the center of China, is one of the areas most affected by the coronavirus.
The WHO has warned of an increase in cases of coronavirus in the coming times.

How was it identified?

This came to the notice of WHO on December 31, 2019, after several cases of pneumonia were found in Wuhan city of Hubei province of China.
The present virus did not match with any of the known viruses during testing.
This created a serious problem because when a virus is new, it is not known how it will affect people.
About a week later, on January 7, Chinese officials confirmed that they had identified a new virus.
This new virus was named coronavirus which is similar to viruses like SARS and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
This new virus was tentatively named ‘2019-nCoV’.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus belongs to a specific virus family. Some viruses in this virus family cause common diseases like cold, cough, and some serious diseases like respiratory and intestinal diseases.
There are many crown-like bulges on the surface of the coronavirus, which look like a solar corona when viewed under a microscope. That’s why its name is ‘coronavirus’.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Coronaviruses are generally of the following four types-

  • 229E Alpha Coronavirus
  • NL63 Alpha Coronavirus
  • OC43 Beta Coronavirus
  • HKU1 Beta Coronavirus

In addition to the four common coronaviruses, there are two specific coronaviruses:

  • Coronavirus- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-MERS
  • Coronavirus – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome- SARS

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome- MERS CoV:

  • For the first time, the infection of MERS Cov was seen in the year 2012 in Saudi Arabia. For this reason, this virus is called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS CoV).
  • Fever, cold and respiratory problems develop in most of the patients affected by MERS Cov.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – SARS CoV:

  • SARS CoV was first detected in humans in 2002 in Guangdong Province, South China.
  • In most of the patients affected by SARS CoV, problems like influenza, fever, nervousness, gout, headache, diarrhea, tremor are found.

Virus symptoms:

  • According to the WHO, common symptoms of this virus include physical problems such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
  • At the same time, serious infections include pneumonia, kidney failure, which can lead to the death of humans.

Measures to prevent infection as referenced by WHO:

  • Hand cleaning using alcohol-based soap and water.
  • Covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone affected by fever and cough.
  • Contact a doctor quickly if fever, cough, and difficulty breathing occur and share information about previous visits with your healthcare provider.
  • Cases of coronavirus can currently be encountered while visiting the market, so avoid contact with animals and direct unprotected contact with infected surfaces.
  • Avoiding consumption of raw or uncooked animal products.

Why is China very vulnerable to the virus?

  • There is a greater spread of this virus in places where there is a relationship like irregular blood and other physical contacts between humans and animals.
  • Animal markets in China are examples of such sites where transmission of the virus from animals to humans is more likely.
  • Due to the sale of meat of many animals in Chinese markets, these markets increase the probability of the virus in humans.
  • When a large human community gets involved in the transmission chain of this virus, a state of mutation occurs which proves fatal for the human community.
  • China’s ecology, with approximately 1.4 billion (50%) of the world’s livestock population, is threatened by coronavirus-related diseases that could threaten China and the rest of the world.