The Covid-19 (new coronavirus) is spreading at a blazing speed. More than 96,000 people are known to be infected, more than 3,300 deaths have been confirmed. The majority of cases and fatalities have been confined to China, but the virus is spreading globally.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a bunch of viruses that cause disease in animals. 7, including the novel virus, have made the jump to humans, but most cause flu-like signs.
Two other coronaviruses – Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome)– are much more intense, having killed more than 1,400 people between them since 2001-2002.
The new virus, officially titled Covid-19, is also deadly. So far, nearly 20 percent of confirmed cases have been classed as critical severe or, and the death rate stands at about 2 percent.
This is much lesser than fatality rates for Mers (30 percent) and Sars (10 percent), but still a significant risk. Researchers in China believe that Covid-19 has mutated into 2 strains, one more deadly than the other, which could make making a vaccine more challenging.
How did the outbreak start?
The primary source of the coronavirus is believed to be a wet market in Wuhan province, which sold both live and dead animals, including birds and fish. Such markets pose an increased risk of viruses jumping from birds, animals to humans because hygiene levels are challenging to maintain if live animals are being kept and butchered on-site. Typically, they are also thickly packed.
The animal source of the latest epidemic has not yet been identified, but the original source is believed to be bats. Bats were not sold at the Wuhan province market but may have infected live birds or other lives sold there. Bats are a source of a wide range of zoonotic viruses(1), including rabies Ebola, HIV, and.
Could the outbreak grow bigger?
It is challenging to say which direction the disease will go, but, on its present movement, it is likely to spread to other countries, affecting many more. The number of cases is beginning to reduce in China but is peaking in the rest of the world.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Initial symptoms include dry cough, fever, tiredness, and a general feeling of being unwell.
How many lives did the virus claim so far?
More than 96,000 cases have been confirmed since the pandemic started, and the death toll has exceeded 3,200. The majority of cases originated in China, but the virus has spread to 45 other countries. According to data from the Chinese authorities, nearly 85 percent of cases of the disease are mild, but 25 percent require hospitalization.
[Read more: CoronaVirus Prevention Measures]
Is there a cure for the coronavirus?
There is no particular treatment, although doctors are trialing existing drugs for viruses such as HIV and Ebola. Early results seem optimistic but, until full clinical trials have been concluded, scientists cannot be guaranteed that the medicines are potent.
How long do you need to wait for a vaccine?
Work to develop a vaccine is gaining momentum, but this work has been halted by the virus mutating into a second strain.
How is coronavirus spread?
Like flu bugs and cold, the virus is spread via air droplets when a person sneezes or coughs. The droplets infect surfaces and are picked up on the hands of others and spread forward. People catch hold of the virus when they touch their infected hands to their nose, mouth, or eyes. It follows that the most critical thing you can do to shield yourself is to keep your hands sanitized by washing them regularly with soap and water or a hand sanitizer.
Is the coronavirus airborne?
There is some discussion about whether the disease is airborne – there is no evidence for it yet, but that could change. Airborne viruses linger for a more extended period than those spread by droplets and can also be spread in ventilation and air conditioning systems. The latest advice is that the disease can only be spread between close contacts – defined as spending more than 20 minutes within two meters of an affected person.
Who started the coronavirus?
Various bizarre conspiracy theories have been circulating that the virus somehow escaped from a Chinese lab, either by design or accident. However, this is untrue, and scientists studying its genetic code have linked it to mammals like bats. It likely then spread to another animal, which passed it on to homo sapiens. The number of diseases passing from animals to humans is increasing, and teams of virus experts are tracking them down.
Where is the disease now?
Apart from China, the disease is now active in more than 45 countries around the globe, including south-east Asian holiday destinations such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Italy has also seen a spike in a large number of cases, leading the authorities to impose a lockdown in the northern parts of the nation. The disease has also penetrated to the Middle East, with Iran mostly affected.
[Read: Can the World Control COVID-19? ]
Should I cancel my travel plans?
It is obvious not to travel to China.
Is this virus like Mers and Sars?
Yes – but it is not as deadly as them.
Mers and Sars are also viruses that cause serious respiratory infections. They also commenced in bats, Sars spreading to humans through civet cats and Mers coming through camels. Sars first originated in China in 2002, spread to 28 countries, infecting around 8,200 people and killing 720. It spread quickly at first but then slowed down. Mers, on the other hand, is more steadfast. It first originated in Jordan in 2012, and about 2,400 cases have been identified. It is more lethal than Sars and has claimed nearly 850 lives in total.
How severe is the disease?
According to data on the first 43,000 cases released by the Chinese authorities, 80 percent of cases are mild. In roughly 14 percent of cases, the virus causes severe disease, including pneumonia, and shortness of breath. In about five percent of patients, it is critical, leading to multiple organ failure, septic shock, respiratory failure.
According to the WHO reports, the death rate in Wuhan is 2 to 4 percent, whereas, in the world and China, it is around 0.7 percent.
It is unsure why the death rate is more in Wuhan province, but it may be because the health facilities there have been outnumbered by ailing individuals. Men are more prone to have a severe form of the disease, as are people with chronic issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
How does this virus compare to past respiratory epidemics?
The H1N1 virus(2) or The 1918 Spanish Influenza remains the most deadly flu pandemic in recent history. The disease spread around the globe and is estimated to have caused between 50 and 100 million fatalities.
A variant of the same virus was also behind the 2009 swine flu outbreak, thought to have killed as many as 565,300 people.
Other prominent influenza outbreaks include Asian flu in 1957, which led to nearly 2 million deaths, and Hong Kong flu, which killed 1 million people 11 years later.
Comparatively, coronavirus outbreaks have so far been far less. Sars eventually spread to 26 countries in total, infecting around 7,000 people and killing 699.
Is there anything I should be doing to prepare?
Yes, Indeed! There are a number of necessary precautions you can take to protect yourself against infecting respiratory viruses of this type.