What you need to know about the Coronavirus
Even though talking about health related topics is not our focus at M&J Sunshine, we wanted to help expand the awareness about Coronavirus since its something it might affect us all. We hope you find this information useful.
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global emergency alert for a new virus, called “coronavirus”, which has created quite a stir, and has even been viralized, due to the humorous reactions of netizens. In this article we will explain everything you need to know about it while we answer some of the frequently asked questions.
So first of all, what are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which can infect people, causing mostly mild illness, such as the strains responsible for some common colds. Others can potentially also lead to severe, or even fatal, disease – such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which continues to circulate in some parts of the world. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak was caused by a coronavirus. It caused severe and fatal disease, however, is no longer in circulation. The natural reservoir for coronaviruses is thought to be animal hosts. New strains emerge from this reservoir, infect an ‘intermediate’ host, and from there infect people. The viruses may then be capable of being transmitted from one person to another. Some are efficient at human-to-human transmission, while others are not.
What does “novel” mean?
Novel means new. In this case, the 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a previously-unidentified strain of coronavirus. It is responsible for the outbreak of pneumonia which began in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
What are the symptoms of 2019-nCoV?
The illness is still being studied. So far, we know that common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
These symptoms are not limited to 2019-nCoV. Respiratory illnesses and pneumonia caused by other organisms (including bacteria) and other viruses (such as influenza) can also cause these symptoms.
2019-nCoV is capable of causing severe illness, and some infected people have died.
How does 2019-nCoV spread?
Authorities are continuing to investigate the source of the infection and how this new coronavirus spreads. Transmission is possibly happening via two routes:
1. Environment-to-human: Preliminary information suggests that the novel coronavirus is zoonotic, or transmitted from an animal source to humans. The initial cluster of cases appeared to have a common source of exposure – a local live seafood and animal market.
2. Human-to-human: from a sick person to others who are in close contact. In general, coronaviruses spread through infected respiratory droplets, just like other respiratory infections, including colds and influenza. A sick person expels these droplets when they cough, sneeze, or talk. Others can get the disease via contact (direct or indirect) with these contaminated droplets.
Who is at risk for infection?
The disease can move from person to person, but it is not yet known how easily or sustainably it spreads. Scientists are studying the data as it becomes available. Most people infected so far have been in, or traveled to, Wuhan, China. Some of the initial cases reported having visited a seafood/animal market, which may have been a source of exposure. In some cases, people who have had close contact with infected people, such as their family members or caregivers, have contracted the virus.
Some people have had a mild illness and recovered. Others have had more severe infections. Critical and fatal cases have occurred. Preliminary evidence indicates that people with underlying medical conditions, elderly people and those with compromised immune systems may be at higher risk for severe illness.
Is there a vaccine?
No. It may take months or years for a vaccine to be developed.
Can 2019-nCoV be treated?
Not specifically. Patients receive supportive care, aimed at relieving their symptoms and preventing complications while they recover. This can include the use of mechanical ventilation if required. There is no specific antiviral therapy against this disease. Antibiotics are only effective against diseases caused by bacteria, not viral diseases like 2019-nCoV.
Is Tamiflu useful?
The antiviral medication Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is not effective against 2019-nCoV. Tamiflu is used to treat influenza.
What can I do to protect myself?
- Avoid potential exposure. Practice good hygiene measures and safe food practices.
- Avoid direct contact with animals (live or dead) and their environment. Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with droppings.
- Keep some distance from people who are obviously sick.
- Maintain good personal hygiene. Wash your hands frequently. Carry hand sanitiser for use when soap and water are not readily available. Avoid touching your face.
- Ensure food, including eggs, is thoroughly cooked.
- Do not travel if you are sick. Note that some locations have implemented screening, and travellers may face quarantine and testing.
Should I wear a face mask?
As of January 23, everyone in Wuhan is required by authorities to wear a mask when in public places. So if you are in Wuhan, you must comply with this directive.
Outside of Wuhan, you may wish to consider wearing a face mask or respirator when in public places, or if you are sick (coughing and sneezing).
Surgical face masks play a limited role in preventing the spread of 2019-nCoV. Whilst stopping people touching their mouth they do not stop breathing in the virus, nor the virus entering the eyes. They also will catch some of the droplets that are coughed and sneezed out.
Fitted respirators, such as ‘P2’ or ‘N95’ masks, are more effective at preventing infection by 2019-nCoV, however their use requires training and fitting. These are not required in a general setting. They should be used by those in close contact with infected people, such as healthcare workers.
A traveller has recently returned from Wuhan. What should they do?
Anyone with a recent travel history to Wuhan should monitor their health for at least 14 days. If symptoms develop, seek medical care. Inform your healthcare provider prior to the visit about
your travel history. An effective screening, quarantine and isolation process requires: a plan of action; triggers for implementation; human resources; a reliable medical referral system etc.
Where is the outbreak predicted to spread?
Further imported cases into any location that has travellers from Wuhan is possible. Wherever there is an infected person, there is the potential for the virus to spread to people in close contact with them. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advised on 22 January that further global spread of this virus is “likely,” with a high probability that the outbreak will spread to other countries in Asia (as these have the greatest volume of people traveling to and from Wuhan, China.) They assess it moderately likely that the virus will spread to countries in the European Union (EU), Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assessed the immediate health risk in the United States as “low” as of 22 January.
*Document adapted from Halliburton.