As the international coronavirus outbreak rapidly unfolds, China and the rest of the world are racing to contain the virus and implement safety measures for civilians. Identified as “2019-nCoV” or “2019 novel coronavirus”, this new coronavirus has killed at least 170 people and has infected over to 7,000 as of Wednesday. Originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan, more than 56 million people in almost 20 Chinese cities have been put on lockdown from traveling in an attempt to halt the spreading of the virus during Lunar New Year, China’s busiest travel season.
What is a coronavirus and what are the symptoms?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronaviruses are common in animal species, and most don’t affect humans – which makes this outbreak so alarming. As of now, only seven different coronaviruses are known to infect humans. In their lifetime, most people will be infected with at least one common human coronavirus.
Common coronaviruses typically cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illness, and those affected exhibit cold-like symptoms. The most common include:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
Some cases of coronavirus can be more severe like this 2019 novel coronavirus, and individuals experience more serious lower-respiratory tract illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia. For the elderly, infants and those with weakened immune systems, coronavirus can be even more dangerous.
Deadly Outbreaks of Coronavirus
The 2019 novel coronavirus, as well as two other human coronaviruses, have caused severe symptoms. In 2012, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak caused severe illness—nearly 4 out of 10 people infected died. The acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which was first reported in Asia in 2003, spread to two dozen countries, infected 8,098 people and caused 774 deaths before it was contained.
2019-nCoV was first identified in Wuhan, China, after people developed pneumonia without a clear cause and for which existing treatments were not effective. The virus has been spread through human-to-human transmission and the rate of infection seemed to escalate in mid-January 2020, with close to 6,000 cases of infection in more than a dozen countries, including five confirmed cases in the United States. More than 100 people in the U.S. were being tested for the disease across 26 states on Tuesday, 1/28.
The CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel to Wuhan, China. Chinese officials have blocked all transportation in and out of the city of Wuhan and surrounding areas. This includes buses, subways, trains, and the closing down the airport.
Tips To Prevent Infection
Human coronaviruses are usually spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing; close personal contact (such as shaking hands); touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
Although there are currently no vaccines available to protect against human coronavirus infection, you may be able to reduce your risk of infection by following these steps:
- Wash your hands – wash your hands as often as possible with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home if you feel sick – protect yourself and others from the spread of infection.
- Avoid close contact – if you notice individuals who are sick or show symptoms, avoid close contact and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Disinfect frequently – be sure to disinfect objects like your phone or keyboard and touched surfaces at home, work, and school.
- Take care of yourself – get a full night’s sleep, exercise, drink plenty of liquids and eat nutritious food.
If you’re exhibiting coronavirus symptoms or have traveled where severe outbreaks have been reported, please call your local healthcare provider and speak to a doctor.