Wuhan: Coronavirus that appears to have originated in China is spreading rapidly crossing borders. More than 2,000 confirmed cases worldwide and 56 deaths so far have been reported.
What type of disease is it?
Common human coronaviruses cause mid to moderate upper respiratory symptoms which includes the common cold. More severe cases can cause pneumonia and even death. Its name comes from the crownlike spikes, it has on its surface-“corona” which is Latin for “crown”.
Coronaviruses originate in animals, typically camels, civets and bats. They are usually non transmissible to humans but if the virus mutates, it can pass from animals to humans and then human to human. China’s National Health Commission has confirmed that 15 healthcare workers have become infected, indicating that the virus can spread from human to human. The new coronavirus is thought to have originated in a seafood market, where wildlife was also sold illegally.
The common signs of infection include fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. More severe cases can cause pneumonia, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), kidney failure and death. The virus is contagious before the symptoms appear. The incubation period of the new coronavirus is thought to be between one and 14 days.
What is happening in China right now?
China is facing major disruption because of the efforts to contain the outbreak. Almost 20 cities are facing travel restrictions and at least 56 million people are affected, according to reports by Aljazeera. China has banned the wildlife trade. The US, Japan and several European countries are working to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, and the wider Hubei province in some cases.
How can you protect yourself from Coronavirus?
WHO on January 23 said that it was too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern although it acknowledged that the virus is an emergency in China. WHO recommends basic hand hygiene such as washing hands with soap and water, and making sure to cover your mouth with your elbow when sneezing or coughing.
What treatments are recommended for this virus?
There are no virus-specific treatments for the virus. There is no approved vaccine available for this virus.
How serious is this?
This virus is “highly infectious” according to China’s Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control. But the agency does not consider the disease to be as virulent as the one that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003. The risk to the general American public is “low”. Most cases have been found in China, and so far international spread seems limited.