Two decades ago, a respiratory virus called Sars, originated from the mutation of a virus that affected birds in breeding sites, spread rapidly in China, killing 800 people. Once again, an acellular being of animal origin, this time from marine animals, has adapted to the human organism and has the potential to generate a new health crisis in China.
According to a report published by Georgetown University, in the United States, the recent threat, however, must have a much less aggressive outcome than the crisis experienced in the early 2000s.
By email, Daniel Lucey, a researcher at Georgetown, told the blog that the technological conditions and tools available to control the disease are "dramatically different". "Two decades ago, we didn't have Big Data services, analysis of large volumes of Dice or even laboratories with supercomputers capable of predicting the mutations of a new virus ", says Lucey.
Among the resources available now is the ability to track, by georeferencing, the trajectory of people who test positive for the new virus, understanding exactly where they have been and with whom they have had contact. From there, it is possible to test and isolate (if applicable) people in a contagious stage.
Applications artificial intelligence they also project the displacement of people living in areas with a higher infection rate, such as Wuhan, in the interior of China, and issue alerts on sensitive destinations, which should be monitored. It is known, for example, that more than 8,000 residents of Wuhan are traveling to the United States and Canada on this Chinese lunar new year holiday.
At airports and train stations, equipment capable of measuring the body temperature of a large volume of people allows to identify, in a crowd, who is feverish and, therefore, to test it.
The correct diagnosis, moreover, is a recent technological possibility. Twenty years ago, identifying a patient's SARS infection with certainty took a week. Currently, blood tests are able to find traces of the DNA of the new virus in a person suspected of being infected in less than an hour.
In China, however, the main reason for the population's optimism to face the crisis is the fact that Beijing acts with transparency. In the crisis of the 2000s, the central government tried to hide the crisis, which only worsened the chances of controlling the epidemic. Now, information circulates freely and everyone knows where they shouldn't go and what they shouldn't eat.
In the internet forums of services like Baidu and Weibo, however, conspiracy theories abound. The most popular is that the new virus would be a chemical weapon developed by the CIA. The goal would be to find a microorganism capable of killing only Chinese and that would be harmless when it infects people from other ethnic groups, such as Westerners, for example.
The theory is fueled by the fact that SARS, only two decades ago, only made fatal Chinese victims. Even infected Japanese, at the end of treatment, were saved. Conspiracy aside, laboratories in China estimate that the fact that supercomputers and Big Data tools are available now, will allow the development of a vaccine in up to 12 months. Two decades ago, this period would have been unfeasible.