Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The latest coronavirus outbreak being witnessed in China and several other coutries currently is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
According to World Health Organization(W.H.O), The virus had infected 75,543 people in China as of 21 February, with 2,238 of them have died.
Fever is usually observed on the patient during the early days of infection, followed by a dry cough.
Then a week later, the patient begins to suffer shortness of breath. At this point, some patients require professional care at a hospital.
However, the infection rarely seems to cause a runny nose or sneezing.
The incubation period – between infection and showing any symptoms – lasts up to 14 days, says WHO.
But some researchers say it may be as long as 24 days.
And Chinese scientists say some people may be infectious even before their symptoms appear.
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Based on data from 44,000 patients with this coronavirus, the WHO says:
81% develop mild symptoms
14% develop severe symptoms
5% become critically ill
The proportion dying from the disease, which has been named Covid-19, appears low (between 1% and 2%) – but the figures are unreliable.
Thousands are still being treated but may go on to die – so the death rate could be higher.
But it is also unclear how many mild cases remain unreported – so the death rate could also be lower.
To put this it into context, about one billion people catch influenza every year, with between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths. The severity of flu changes every year.
Right now, treatment relies on the basics – keeping the patient’s body going, including breathing support, until their immune system can fight off the virus.
However, the work to develop a vaccine is under way and it is hoped there will be human trials before the end of the year.
Hospitals are also testing anti-viral drugs to see if they have an impact.
The WHO says:
Wash your hands – soap or hand gel can kill the virus
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing – ideally with a tissue – and wash your hands afterwards, to prevent the virus spreading
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – if your hands touch a surface contaminated by the virus, this could transfer it into your body
Don’t get too close to people coughing, sneezing or with a fever – they can propel small droplets containing the virus into the air – ideally, keep 1m (3ft) away
Thousands of new cases are being reported each day.
However, analysts believe the true scale could be 10 times larger than official figures.
China, where the outbreak began, has seen a sharp drop in the number of new infections.
There were 394 new confirmed cases and 114 deaths reported on Wednesday, down from 1,749 new cases on Tuesday, the National Health Commission said.
Contrary to the popular belief of most persons that coronavirus is a new virus, it has in fact being in existence for quite long before now. it is just new to humans, having jumped from one species to another.
Most of the early cases of the infection was traced to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market, in Wuhan.
Chinese cities are well known for its tendency to be over populated, a lot of people come into close contact with animals harbouring viruses – and the country’s dense urban population means the disease can be easily spread.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which is also caused by a coronavirus, started off in bats and then infected the civet cat, which in turn passed it on to humans.
The Sars outbreak, which started in China in 2002, killed 774 of the 8,098 people infected.
The current virus – one of seven types of coronavirus – does not seem to be mutating so far. But while it appears stable, this is something scientists will be watching closely.
This post was last modified on February 25, 2020 7:43 pm
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