Written by By Laura Sneider, CNN
According to a recent report published in the British Medical Journal, hospitals in South Africa are reporting an alarming trend. An increasing number of children are being infected with the coronavirus (Coronavirus), which is primarily confined to the Middle East. The findings are especially concerning given the fact that more than 300 children have died of an as yet unidentified cause within the last 30 years, with an average age of 17.6 years.
Simon Lawson, managing director at public health consultancy BDOnline, who has worked in the region for over 10 years, explains that research has linked several small-scale outbreaks within South Africa with cornedavirus infection and multiple cases were recorded in late 2017 and early 2018. It’s also known that children are typically at a greater risk of these type of outbreaks than adults due to their weakened immune systems. “However, there is still some question as to whether this is a new phenomenon,” he says.
Coronavirus cases are up in South Africa
Aside from the fact that it is hard to diagnose, The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that the most common signs of infection include general weakness, in addition to complications like pneumonias and kidney damage. The WHO also advises that potentially infected people should avoid travel to areas where human-to-human transmission is widespread, particularly in countries with a hot climate.
“The cases that we have seen were only around three to four weeks apart, which means they occurred before the outbreak had become widespread,” he says. “The question that we must now ask is whether this is something we should be worried about. We do not know exactly where it is coming from.”
Worldwide, the threat posed by coronavirus infections like the E. coli and Saint Kilda viruses is growing, according to an assessment by the WHO released in 2015. One of the researchers of the WHO report suggests that cornedavirus infections are rising, with fatalities from these types of viruses rising by approximately 50% from 2014 to 2015.
As for any instances of the disease spreading within hospitals, Lawson believes that it is still hard to pin down a time frame. “If it’s going to spread through hospitals, then that would be useful for us to know, so I would think the WHO would have probably done more of an in-depth assessment as part of this report,” he says.
Lawson and other experts can take heart from the fact that some large-scale outbreaks have occurred recently, while Coronavirus has also been linked to far-flung outbreaks of different viruses that are not currently dangerous to humans.
In November 2017, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University who studied a multistate outbreak linked to a Chagas virus outbreak in 2017 discovered that case samples from a California hospital were from the same general hospital and same region of the United States, which indicated a possible case of cross-transmission. Meanwhile, there were documented cases of people falling ill from an outbreak of norovirus in Mexico that eventually led to over 9,000 people getting sick. Additionally, the researchers also found that, of the 550 patients in the hospital in 2014, 237 had symptoms similar to E. coli (though they were not confirmed as having been exposed to an E. coli strain). This means that, in this case, the likely source of the illness may not have been one of the three most common coronavirus strains, but rather another virus that could have been passed from patient to patient while they were under treatment.
“It does not look like it’s a serious issue for humans, but there’s still plenty of time to work on to find out. This is something that could potentially be a serious health issue,” Lawson says.