NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 5: The death toll from the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China has risen to 490 with 65 new fatalities being reported in the hard-hit Hubei province, all from Hubei province and its capital Wuhan. With 2 more cases of deaths reported from Hong Kong and Philippines each, making the overall toll to 492. The global health experts, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the world has a “window of opportunity” to halt the spread of a deadly new virus.
The dramatic measures taken by China to rein in the deadly new coronavirus outbreak have prevented significant spread abroad, providing a “window of opportunity” to halt transmission, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.
But the UN health agency’s chief also called for greater solidarity, accusing some Governments of wealthy countries of being “well behind” in sharing data on virus cases. “While 99% of cases are in China, in the rest of the world we only have 176 cases,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a technical briefing to the WHO’s Executive Board in Geneva.
‘No known effective’ treatments
The WHO played down media reports of “breakthrough” drugs being discovered to treat people infected with nCoV. A Chinese TV report said researchers at Zhejiang University had found an effective drug for the virus, while Sky News said researchers had made a “significant breakthrough” in developing a vaccine. Oil prices jumped on the reports.
But WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic said, “There are no known effective therapeutics against this 2019-nCoV (virus) and the WHO recommends enrolment into a randomized controlled trial efficacy and safety.” The process of developing and testing drugs or vaccines against a new pathogen normally takes many years and is often fraught with pitfalls and failures.
DGCI approves ‘restricted use’ of anti-HIV drugs
The Drug Controller General of India has approved the “restricted use” of a combination of drugs used widely for controlling HIV infection in public health emergency for treating those affected by nCoV, official sources said.
According to Government sources, apex health research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had sought an emergency approval from the DCGI for the “restricted use” of the combination of two medications – lopinavir and ritonavir – for treatment of the respiratory ailment.
“We did our own docking studies and found that this could be a potentially useful drug against nCoV,” an ICMR official said. This combination along with other drug has been used in clinical trials in China, where the coronavirus first emerged, and Thailand for treating nCoV-affected patients.
Meanwhile, at least 10 passengers on a cruise ship that Japan quarantined tested positive for the new Coronavirus, according to the Japanese Health Ministry. Japan has quarantined the ship carrying 3,711 people and was testing those onboard for the virus after a former passenger was diagnosed with the illness in Hong Kong.
By the end of Tuesday, 18 confirmed cases had been reported in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), including 1 death, 10 in the Macao SAR and 11 in Taiwan.
Tedros said the WHO was sending masks, gloves, respirators and 18,000 protective isolation gowns to 24 countries, as well as 250,000 test kits to speed up the process of diagnose carriers of the virus.
He also reiterated his call for countries not to impose travel and trade restrictions because of the virus.
The Coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract. The symptoms of infection include fever, cough and breathing problems.
The Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndromes, but the virus in China is a novel strain and not seen before.