If you have watched the news lately, you’ve no doubt heard of the Coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. But what exactly is the Coronavirus, and should you be worried?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, the viruses cause respiratory infections which are typically mild, including the common cold, but rarer forms like SARS and MERS can be lethal.
There are seven strains of human coronaviruses:
❍Human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E) (otherwise known as the common cold)
❍Human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43)
❍Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63, New Haven coronavirus)
❍Human coronavirus HKU1
❍Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), previously known as novel coronavirus 2012 and HCoV-EMC.
❍Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also known as Wuhan pneumonia or Wuhan coronavirus
The current outbreak of Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, also known as Wuhan pneumonia, is believed to have originated in the food markets in Wuhan, and many pathologists agree that it likely has zoonotic origins.
Human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed. Reports have emerged that the virus is infectious even during the incubation period, although as of 27 January 2020 officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States stated they “don’t have any evidence of patients being infectious prior to symptom onset.”
Research groups have estimated the basic reproduction number of the virus to be between 1.4 and 5, with most estimates below 3.8. This means that, when unchecked, the virus typically results in 1.4 to 3.8 new cases per established infection. It has been established that the virus is able to transmit along a chain of at least four people.
No specific treatment is currently available, so treatment is focused on alleviation of symptoms, which include fever, fatigue, dry cough, and shortness of breath, or pneumonia and kidney failure in severe cases. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) is testing existing pneumonia treatments for efficacy in treating coronavirus-related pneumonia.
It’s important to remember that the large majority of individuals who contract 2019-nCoV will not develop severe symptoms- some of those who are more at risk include the elderly, very young children, and those with compromised immune and respiratory systems.
So, how can you protect yourself and your family? The CDC recommends following good hand washing techniques, and washing your hands frequently, even when they are not visibly soiled. Avoid close contact with others who are ill, and follow proper home disinfecting and food safety precautions.