Written by Steve McAnon, CNN
The Eisbrugge of Westerdam is now on lockdown, and residents are coming down with the mumps. Since early November, as many as 500 people from the town in Belgium's northeast have been stricken with the measles-like disease that is caused by a virus called the coronavirus. The latest infection occurred on Friday, and the town has been taking its precautions ever since.
As the Belgian government ordered a mandatory ban on people arriving from Saudi Arabia as well as Britain, other European countries are already under pressure to respond to the rapidly developing disease.
Forty countries have identified one of the coronaviruses that has affected people in Denmark, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, China, India, Italy, Ukraine, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Lithuania, Germany, Norway, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Qatar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Kuwait, Oman, Spain, The Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Malta, Finland, Greece, Albania, Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, and Pakistan
The Saudi government confirmed on February 17 that an infected man had died in a Riyadh hospital and earlier reported the death of one person in London. In Italy, the national health authority reported that the country's first case -- which does not appear to be deadly -- was registered on January 28, 2016 and a total of 92 have been reported in 19 institutions from 13 different cities.
In Europe, we know a number of things. We know that the WHO has catalogued where these infections have occurred, and we know of the fact that some of the other countries have experienced incidents and seen dramatic growth.
We also know that this infection does not spread from person to person, and it is a distinct kind of infection from measles, the other common childhood disease we tend to associate with a mumps epidemic. So the information that we have is quite good, but we do not have a lot of details on the source.
The viruses are found in the mouth and respiratory system, and there's a mechanism of transmission. In the conclusion, the virus is present in Saudi Arabia and the UK. It makes us concerned but it does not seem to be a common risk factor for people at large.
We do not have any good indications of the pathogen' origin. It can be very hard to identify.
Sociologist Professor Heather Fitzpatrick from the School of Criminology at De Montfort University is heavily involved in researching how this virus spreads through Europe, and working with the virus from a scientific point of view. She told CNN that while there has been a number of cases in the UK, it's not often unusual to find a small community infected, as there is usually a greater risk of transmission in such conditions.
"Coronaviruses generally tend to be more common in northern climates and so where the winds blow the virus around," she said.
Among the most commonly missed features of the virus are its main symptom that produces swelling in the glands, which provides the foundation for the hysteria and viral hysteria that some of the population appear to suffer.
That doesn't mean that we won't discover more of the virus as time goes on. However, in the meantime, most of the symptoms, such as the rash and muscle aches that can appear are very common and the illness is usually over within a week.