Coronavirus (COVID-19) – All you need to know

This post will tell you what you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19) — what it is, how it spreads, who is most at risk, and what you can do to help stop it spreading. 

A new coronavirus first reported in the city of china named Wuhan in late 2019 has spread worldwide, reaching more than one hundred countries by March 2020. It has infected more than 162,588 people and killed over six thousand.

What is coronavirus?

According to the WHO, coronavirus is a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

These viruses were originally transmitted between animals and people. SARS, for instance, was transmitted from civet cats to humans while MERS moved to humans from a type of camel.

Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word corona, meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus looks like a solar corona.

The novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7 and since named COVID-19, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans. Little is known about it, although human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.

How do I protect myself from Coronavirus?

The best thing is regular and thorough hand washing, preferably with soap and water.

Coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air. These can be breathed in, or cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on then your eyes, nose or mouth.

So, coughing and sneezing into tissues, not touching your face with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with infected people are important for limiting the spread.

Face masks do not provide effective protection, according to medical experts.

You might be seeing people wearing them, but there is limited evidence that they work.

That’s because they are generally too loose, don’t cover the eyes and can’t be worn for long periods.

Face masks need to be changed frequently (because they get sweaty), if they are to offer any real protection.

To protect yourself, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it’s more important to:

  • cover your mouth and nose while sneezing, with a tissue or your elbow
  • put the tissue straight into a closed bin
  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water or sanitizer.
  • keep your distance from people who are coughing and sneezing (at least one meter)

Don’t bother:

  • eating garlic
  • gargling mouthwash
  • rinsing your nose with saline
  • using sesame oil under the nose

None of these will help protect against the new virus in any way, the WHO adds.

You can’t catch the virus from pets

There is no evidence that your pet dog or cat can pass on the new coronavirus, according to the WHO.

UK experts say reports of a dog in Hong Kong repeatedly testing positive should not lead people to panic.

“We have to differentiate between real infection and just detecting the presence of the virus,” says Prof Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham.

“I still think it’s questionable how relevant it is to the human outbreak as most of the global outbreak has been driven by human-to-human transmission.”

He added: “We need to find out more, but we don’t need to panic – I doubt it could spread to another dog or a human because of the low levels of the virus.”

But you should still wash your hands regularly with soap and water after touching pets.

Even cuddly ones can carry bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella – and these are bugs that can pass between pets and humans.

The new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease Covid-19) is thought to have originated in wildlife and been passed to humans via a live animal market in Wuhan, China.

What are the coronavirus symptoms?

Coronavirus infects the lungs. The symptoms start with a fever followed by a dry cough, which can lead to breathing problems.

It takes five days on average to start showing the symptoms, scientists have said, but some people will get symptoms much later than this.

The incubation period lasts up to 14 days, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. But some researchers say it may be up to 24 days.

How deadly is coronavirus?

The proportion dying from the disease appears low (between 1% and 2%) – but the figures are unreliable.

Thousands are being treated but may go on to die – so the death rate could be higher. But it may also be lower if lots of mild cases are unreported.

A World Health Organization examination of data from 56,000 patients suggests:

  • 6% become critically ill – lung failure, septic shock, organ failure and risk of death
  • 14% develop severe symptoms – difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
  • 80% develop mild symptoms – fever and cough and some may have pneumonia

Is there a vaccine?

No medicines to prevent or treat the virus are currently available, though researchers in both the public and private sectors are searching for possible medications, including vaccines, to be tested in clinical trials. Officials at the U.S. National Institutes of Health said a vaccine would likely be ready to be administered to the public within twelve to eighteen months.

What has been China’s response?

When the first cases appeared in early December, Wuhan officials silenced doctors who warned of the new virus, and did not alert the public of a possible outbreak. (One of those doctors, Li Wenliang, later died from the virus.) By the time authorities issued warnings and alerted the WHO on December 31, the virus had already spread to an unmanageable level, experts say. Authorities closed an animal market where the virus was thought to have originated, but wildlife trading was not immediately banned throughout the city and province