The spread of coronavirus, a novel respiratory illness, is adding urgency to tensions between the United States and China. That's because it would appear that the spread of the illness is traced back to these two countries, despite seeming inelegance over who is responsible.
Coronavirus is the medical name for the Huanglong-1 coronavirus, which has been spreading among Middle Easterners in recent years, bringing disease to more than 200 people, according to the World Health Organization. In October, a Qatari man imported the virus to Britain, where five people died from the illness, it has been identified as a possible cause of the outbreak in Spain, which appears to be a global hotspot for infections.
In addition, the illness has entered the United States, thanks to an infected American man returning to the U.S. from a trip to Saudi Arabia. In November, health officials reported the emergence of the virus in the Middle East, but pinpointed the origin to the Gulf region. Later that month, they discovered a 93-year-old Saudi Arabian woman had infected a traveler with the virus upon her return to the U.S.
As global health officials gear up for a potential seasonal outbreak of the ailment, so do those in the Beijing and Washington worlds. First, over the last week, the World Health Organization briefed Congress on the virus, as the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the emergence of the disease.
As an organization tasked with bringing new knowledge into the world health community, the United Nations health agency maintains close ties with the affected countries, countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. As such, WHO's special efforts to quell the outbreak might more accurately be described as its alert effort.
"WHO's alert will be a mix of 'psychological investment' and 'hard handwork,' said Dr. Sara Threakall, a fellow at the Center for Infection and Immunity at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, at the hearing.
Also on Wednesday, an anti-virus firm disclosed it found the virus on computers from the Chinese government, including from the Chinese Health Ministry. A different firm said last month it found the virus on an infected machine owned by an official at the Health Ministry. It is believed that these findings were based on information shared in a cross-border communication mechanism, or public-private collaboration, called the Beijing Protocol, according to a CDC analysis released this week.
These methods, known as the Clandestine Strike Team, are used by health researchers to raise the alarms and try to jump start research efforts in the affected country. These programs allow for coordination between federal and global health agencies, enabling them to move faster when they realize that a big problem is lurking in their midst.