When most of the countries globally were enjoying Christmas and new year 2020, travelling for holidays and having fun time with family and friends, a novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory infections that first emerged out of Wuhan City, China in December. The number of cases linked to this outbreak is changing quickly. Cases have been reported in multiple jurisdictions across China and outside China in a number of various other countries.
What is Coronavirus?
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). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
How the coronavirus is transmitted?
Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
The possible reasoning, according to the research article and an article from The Conversation, via CNN: Snakes often hunt bats in the wild— and because snakes were also sold at the seafood market in Wuhan, the novel coronavirus may have jumped from bats to snakes to humans at the beginning of the outbreak. Still, more research on that theory needs to be done—which is especially hard now that the Wuhan seafood market has recently been disinfected and shut down.
Why is this worse than normal influenza, and how worried are the experts?
The answer is uncertainty, we don’t yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we won’t know until more data comes in. The mortality rate is around 2% in the epicenter of the outbreak, Hubei province, and less than that elsewhere. For comparison, seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about 400,000 deaths each year globally. SARS had a death rate of more than 10%. A crucial difference is that unlike flu, there is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, which means it is more difficult for vulnerable members of the population.
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.
Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?
Chief Medical Officers are advising anyone who has travelled to the Canada from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and who is experiencing a cough or fever or shortness of breath should inform their doctor and stay indoors.
How many people have been affected?
As of 24 February, 79,744 deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak. Health officials have confirmed 2,629 deaths in total. More than 25,267 have recovered. The coronavirus has spread to at least 28 other countries. There have also been deaths in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Iran and the Philippines.
What preventive steps should we take?
Hand-washing and avoiding other people if you feel unwell are important. One sensible step is to get the flu vaccine, which will reduce the burden on health services if the outbreak turns into a wider epidemic.
Should we panic?
No. The spread of the virus outside China is worrying but not an unexpected development. The WHO has declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern. The key issues are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people, and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital. Often viruses that spread easily tend to have a milder impact. Generally, the coronavirus appears to be hitting older people hardest, with few cases in children.
Information for travelers
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a Travel Health Notice to avoid all non-essential travel to China and avoid all travel to the province of Hubei, including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou, due to the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus.
Information for travelers returning to or entering Vancouver
The Public Health Agency of Canada has implemented measures to detect and contain the infection. These measures include messaging on arrivals screens at international airports reminding travelers to inform a border service officer if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms and are arriving from an affected area, and an additional health screening question at electronic kiosks. British Columbians should always tell their health care providers about their recent travel if they become ill after returning to Canada.
What is the update from the World Health Organization (WHO)?
WHO is expected to provide an update as significant jumps in cases outside China have raised concern about the outbreak getting out of control. South Korea has the third- highest national total behind China and Japan, and cases have rapidly increased in Italy and Iran in just a few days.
What is the future of Coronavirus?
According to WHO the future of this virus is uncertain. No one can clearly say at this point that they can win the battle against Coronavirus. Whether they can permanently kill it, suppress the virus or it can come as seasonal just like influenza virus, future is uncertain about Coronavirus. Only prevention and preparedness for this virus is the answer.
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