The coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan city of China continues to spread in many parts of the globe. Meanwhile, health agencies are striving to help people know and recognize the causes and symptoms of the deadly virus as the search for a cure continues. Detailed below is everything you will want to know about this virus, including causes, symptoms, prevention, and cure.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China has jumped to 4,515 as of Tuesday, Jan 28. The deadly virus has claimed at least 106 lives in the country, including a 9-month-old girl in Beijing, according to the National Health Commission.
Coronaviruses are basically viruses that are common among animals. However, a few types of the rare viruses are known to be transmitted from animals to humans, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). SARS is believed to have originated from civet cats, while MERS from a type of camel.
Our estimate at 4,000 cases is more than double the past estimate due to increase of number of cases outside China. This should not be interpreted as implying the outbreak has doubled in size.
— MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis (@MRC_Outbreak) January 22, 2020
Such types of viruses can result in illness ranging from cold to more serious symptoms. The China coronavirus has been named “coronavirus 2019-nCoV” by the World Health Organization. There is no information yet on what animal caused the current outbreak in Wuhan, but many believe it could have been transmitted from snakes. This strain of coronavirus has not been found in humans before.
Not much is known about this coronavirus, but human-to-human transmission has been confirmed. It means that a cough, sneeze or handshake could transmit the virus. Moreover, it can be transmitted by touching something touched by an infected person and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes without washing your hands.
It could be fever, cough, breathing difficulties and more, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Other possible symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat and headache. In more severe cases, the virus could also result in pneumonia and kidney failure. For those with a weak immune system, especially kids and the elderly, this new virus could result in a respiratory tract illness.
Is it deadly? This new virus is currently believed to be milder than SARS and MERS. It may take a week for the symptoms to develop. So far, only 15% to 20% of the reported cases have become severe.
However, the new coronavirus has a longer incubation period because it causes symptoms after a week or two. SARS had an incubation period of two to seven days, but the coronavirus causes symptoms after anywhere from one to 14 days.
One other thing that makes it more dangerous than SARS is that it’s contagious during the incubation period before it causes symptoms, according to Chinese health officials. However, CDC officials are telling news outlets that they haven’t seen “any evidence of patients being” infected “before onset.”
Coronavirus: Preventive measures and cure
There is no cure for the new coronavirus, so the best thing to do is to avoid getting it in the first place. Treatment for those who do contract the virus is focused on relieving the symptoms it causes. In severe cases, treatment also includes supporting vital organ functions, according to the CDC.
The best way to prevent contracting the illness is to avoid coming into contact with those who have been infected. Prevention methods also include washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Other precautionary measures include avoiding touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands and frequently cleaning and disinfecting items and surfaces that are frequently touched.
In outbreaks of other #coronaviruses (MERS & SARS), person-to-person transmission occurred through droplets, contact and fomites, suggesting that the transmission mode of the 2019-nCoV can be similar
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 27, 2020
Given that it’s a new virus, no cure is available yet. Some pharmaceutical companies are said to be working on possible vaccines for it. In some cases, the symptoms may go away on their own.
It is recommended that you take precautions early and visit your doctor. In addition, drink as much fluid as you can, take rest and sleep properly. You may also lower the chances of infection by avoiding people who are sick.
SARS, which also originated from China, claimed about 800 lives globally during its 2002-2003 outbreak. MERS, on the other hand, did not spread much but was more deadly, killing about 30% of those it infected. However, similar to SARS and MERS, the coronavirus appears to affect old people more severely.
The virus has spread to over a dozen countries. Thailand has reported 14 confirmed cases of the infection while Japan has reported seven. Australia, Macau, and Taiwan have reported five cases each. South Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore have reported four case each. Germany, Canada, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Nepal have also reported at least one case each. No death has been reported outside China, though.
In the U.S., at least five cases have been confirmed, although health officials say they have been monitoring as many as 110 suspected cases of the virus. Of those 110, 32 were negative and 73 cases are still pending. The CDC has expanded its travel advisory for China to include all of Hubei province, which is where Wuhan is located.
The Chinese government has locked down 14 cities to contain its spread. The travel restrictions affect the lives of more than 50 million people.
China has also extended the Lunar New Year holiday, which began on January 25, to February 3. Many large cities have asked businesses to remain shut until next week. Tech giants such as Bytedance, Alibaba, Tencent, and Didi have asked their employees to work from home between 3-10 February.
“In order to control the epidemic, protect people’s lives and health, reduce the mass gathering and ensure people to have a harmonious and peaceful Spring Festival, it is decided to cancel all the large-scale events, including temple fairs, in Beijing as of today,” Beijing Culture and Tourism Bureau said in a statement on Thursday.
The World Health Organization has revised its global risk assessment from “moderate” to “high.” The WHO changed its assessment after its Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited China and discussed measures being taken with the Chinese health officials.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed confidence that the country will be able to control the epidemic. However, the New York Times reported that China was struggling with the shortage of test kits. It means the number of confirmed cases could have been under-reported.
Jan. 28 Update: Added details about the WHO’s assessment of the situation and the latest number of reported cases in China and other countries.