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Quick Facts: What We Know So Far About the Novel Coronavirus

A few weeks ago, an outbreak of a novel coronavirus was discerned in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province. The infection has since expanded on a global scale. Here are quick facts on what we know so far:

What is the coronavirus?

The coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a “contagion [in] the same family of infections as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).” It is transmitted by animals and through human-to-human interactions. Its origins have been traced to a live animal market in Wuhan. Its mortality rate is currently around 2.2%. Its symptoms are similar to that of a common cold but may not show up right away once infected. They include fever, dry cough, fatigue, respiratory symptoms among others.

The number of cases is still drastically increasing.

Image: Виталий Смолыгин

China currently has more than 6000 confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus and 132 related deaths. According to the National Health Commission (NHC), the vast and rapid spread of the illness is highly linked with not only the severity of coronavirus but also with its timing. The virus was found in early December, a month before the Lunar New Year during which millions travel home to visit their families. Around 91 cases have been reported outside of the country. Zhong Nanshan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and an expert in respiratory diseases, has voiced the possibility of the virus spread rate reaching its peak in a week or 10 days.

A vaccine is being developed.

There currently is no targeted drug to treat the novel coronavirus, but with the aid of life support technologies, scientists and medical experts are finding ways to fight it. A scientist from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced on January 26th that a vaccine is currently underway to treat the virus. Scientists from the center have been able to isolate the virus. A vaccine usually takes around two to three years before being ready for use. Research and development of a vaccine is complex work, which usually requires between two and three years before availability for use, he said, adding it is possible that a new vaccine may be developed within a few years in emergency conditions.

International measures are being taken to contain the virus.

Health screening at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. (Ptrump16)

Transport in and out of Wuhan and at least 10 other cities (which involves nearly 60 million people) has been shut down by Chinese authorities, and face masks are now mandatory to be worn in public places in Wuhan. Airports around the world have become increasingly cautious with health screenings and quarantine procedures. It is known that several countries such as the United States and Japan have repatriated their citizens out of Wuhan with their own planes. Others such as Australia, France, India, South Korea, and the United Kingdom are preparing to do so.

Here’s how you can prevent an infection:

Image: DHEC

The prevention methods against 2019-nCoV infections encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention involve simple everyday habits:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Additional tips the CDC recommends for travelers, other than avoiding nonessential travel to China, is to:

  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Discuss travel to China with your healthcare provider. Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease.
  • Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).

Here’s what you can do to help:

In the last couple of weeks, the outbreak of coronavirus has prompted many to politicize the disease and find a reason to display racist attitudes both on and offline and in their communities. Being aware of this phenomenon and standing up against it is essential in order to stop normalizing it.

You can also help in donating to the crowdfund for the cause.

Featured Image: China News Service

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