The Coronavirus is at the forefront of discussions and news. There is plenty of information and misinformation out there. Some commentators are panicked, others are ambivalent and feeling distant from the reach of the virus. Here is an overview of the Coronavirus.
What is the coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a virus that displays symptoms like normal everyday cold or flu – fever, fatigue, sore throat, dry cough and berating difficulties. The family of coronavirus included the SARS epidemic of 2002-3 that infected 8,098 people worldwide and caused 774 deaths. Another coronavirus that infected people was the MERS outbreak that began on the Arabian Peninsula in 2012 and still lingers. Scientists have isolated and identified the virus from its family by the name “nCoV-2019”.
Where did the virus originate?
On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) China office heard the first reports of a previously-unknown virus behind a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, a city in Eastern China with a population of over 11 million. On 11 and 12 January 2020, WHO received further detailed information from the National Health Commission China that the outbreak was associated with exposures in one seafood market in Wuhan City. The Chinese authorities identified a new type of coronavirus, which was isolated on 7 January 2020.
Scientists have speculated that the virus has either spread from bats or snakes.
Scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology have been researching the connection between coronaviruses and bats. In 2017, after nearly five years of collecting faecal samples from bats, in the Yunnan cave, they found coronaviruses in multiple individuals of four different species of bats, including one called the intermediate horseshoe bat. The genome of that virus is 96 per cent identical to the Wuhan virus that is currently infecting humans.
What are the symptoms?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, a person could be at risk if they have:
- Fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as coughing or difficulty breathing, after travelling to Wuhan or having close contact with someone who was ill and is now under investigation for the virus in the past two weeks.
- Fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness after having close contact in the past two weeks with someone who’s been confirmed to have the virus.
Who is most likely to get this virus?
As of now, the majority of the people who have been diagnosed with this virus are all elder or have been in close contact with wild animals. People who have come into close contact with someone who has had the virus have also been diagnosed.
How far has it spread?
Even though the virus first appeared in China, it has quickly spread to countries like the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Macau, Japan and the Philippines, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam and the UAE. As of today, there are over 10,000 cases recorded across China and dozens in other countries. At least 213 deaths have occurred in Chine due to the virus.
What steps are being taken to keep this under control?
China has declared a state of emergency and put multiple cities under quarantine to keep the virus under control. China has imposed travel restrictions on at least 16 cities in the Hubei province. It has become so difficult for China to handle the number of patients coming in for diagnosis that it has begun construction of two hospitals to be completed and in use by next week. The Chinese government has also barred its citizens from booking overseas flights. However, there is scepticism regarding the free flow of information about the virus from China in attempts to not cause alarm or bring further damage to the economy.
Is the global community doing enough?
Many countries like the USA, France and recently Bangladesh, are evacuating citizens from China. Since there has been confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission, the World Health Organization has declared this a Public Health Emergency.
However, must people who have died are the elderly and other medically vulnerable populations with other underlying conditions. Many experts are saying that the likelihood of dying from this virus is very low. Although the virus is spreading rapidly, 2% of those infected have died.
Is there a vaccine?
There is no known vaccine in circulation for the virus as of yet. Given how the virus continues to mutate, scientists say that it is very difficult to find a vaccine for the virus.
Antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viruses.
What precautions can I take?
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Try not to travel to affected provinces in China and take extra precautions in transport hubs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Should I be worried?
It is important to stay vigilant and up to date about where the virus has spread. However, it also important to filter through the news and check sources to avoid misinformation. Look for updates from the World Health Organisation and other reputable agencies. It is also not a time to be racist towards any group of people and their culture. Stay calm, take precautions- especially while travelling.