What is Covid-19 – the illness that started in Wuhan?
It is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals.”
The CDC says that rarely does the animal coronavirus infect people.
However, this most current strain is a new respiratory virus that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, which has been infecting people.
The World Health Organization says that common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. Rarer, more severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and in the most extreme, death.
Symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days, or as long as 14, after exposure.
Like previous coronaviruses, this particular virus likely emerged from an animal source, though experts aren’t sure which one as of yet.
Now the virus is being spread from person to person. Typically coronavirus infections are transmissible person to person only once someone infected is showing symptoms, however, the Chinese health minister is indicating that this particular strain may be infectious when people aren’t yet sick
What are the symptoms this coronavirus causes?
The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.
How Do I Protect Myself?
While there’s no vaccine to prevent the 2019-nCoV infection, there are still things you can do to protect yourself.
“The best protection is hand washing and being mindful of contact with a person’s face,” said Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, director of global health for Northwell Health and the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New York.
“The most common way viruses like these are spread is from droplets, or little particles of viruses, that land on a surface that another person touches and then spreads, usually by touching their face or eating,” he said.
The CDC recommends:
- Washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. An alcohol-based sanitizer can work in the absence of soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
- Cover your mouth when you cough, or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
It’s important to note that alcohol-based sanitizers like Purell are helpful, but not a legitimate preventive measure to stop viruses.
The CDC says that, “alcohol-based sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.”
Using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can help in the absence of soap and water, but it’s not a treatment or prevention for viruses.
How many people have been affected?
As of 25 February, the outbreak has affected 80,000 people globally. In mainland China there have been 2,663 deaths among 77,658 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei. More than 12,000 people affected in China have already recovered.
The coronavirus has spread to at least other 30 other countries. The most badly affected include Japan, with 850 cases, including 691 from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, and four deaths. Italy has recorded 229 cases and seven deaths, while South Korea has recorded 893 cases and eight deaths. There have also been deaths in Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Iran and the Philippines.
There have been 13 recorded cases and no fatalities to date in the UK.