The newly identified coronavirus that was identified for the first time on new years eve in the central Chinese city of Wuhan has been declared a pandemic, with the number of infections topping 130,000 worldwide. This virus causes a condition Covid-19, which has clinicians worried it could rival the most devastating outbreaks in recent decades.
1. What makes this virus so worrying?
The Coronavirus has been described by global health experts as “insidious” because many infected people exhibit minor symptoms and are able to go about their daily business, spreading the virus unknowingly to others. As of March 3, the fatality rate was about 3.4% based on globally reported cases, the World Health Organization said. The WHO said that the new coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu, which has a mortality rate of about 0.1%. This is coming from a study published Feb. 10 that estimated a mortality rate of 1% once all cases, including those with no or only mild symptoms, are counted.
2. How does this compare with other outbreaks?
SARS was also a coronavirus that also caused a pandemic in 2002- 2003 epidemic. SARS killed 9.5% of patients. MERS-CoV another coronavirus has led to death in 34% of the 2,499 cases recorded since 2012. However, both SARS and MERS outbreaks didn’t transmit from one person to another as efficiently as this new one appears to do. Certainly, they didn’t spread as widely as fast. In the worst pandemic in recent history, an estimated 50 million people died from the 1918 influenza that had a case-fatality ratio of about 2% and infected as much as a third of the world’s population. The last pandemic, an outbreak of a new strain of H1N1 flu (swine flu) in 2009, infected an estimated 61 million people in the U.S. alone and killed an estimated 12,469 of them in the first year it circulated.
3. What does the virus do?
Once infection with the virus has occurred symptoms begin to appear on average five to six days after infection. It results in mild symptoms that would last approximately two weeks in young children, adolescents and younger healthy adults. More severe symptoms lasting three to six weeks are observed in older people.
Symptoms include early signs are fever, dry cough, tiredness and mucus production in the nose and throat. The Danger starts when the mucus reaches the lungs.
One in seven patients quickly develops difficulty breathing and other severe complications, while 6% of infected patients become critically ill. These patients typically suffer respiratory failure and other vital systems and sometimes develop septic shock, according to a WHO report. In severe cases, studies suggest the virus causes severe difficulty breathing and the inflammation and congestion associated with pneumonia. In an early study, more than a quarter of hospitalized patients developed a complication known as acute respiratory distress syndrome.
4. Who’s most at risk for complications with Coronavirus?
It appears to be the elderly and those with other serious health issues. Many of the fatalities have been in patients with underlying illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. A Chinese study of 72,000 cases found most deaths occurred in patients over 60 years old. Of all confirmed cases, 81% were mild, 14% were severe and 4.7% critical.
5. How do people contract Covid -19?
The virus is transferred through droplets that are emitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be transferred directly to someone else in close proximity or via hands and surfaces. How long it survives on surfaces is unknown, but preliminary studies suggest coronaviruses may remain viable from a few hours to 2 or 3 days on stainless steel or plastics. Simple disinfectants kill it. There’s a theoretical risk the virus can spread through faeces or in tiny particles known as aerosols, which one preliminary study found can remain infectious floating in the air for as many as 3 hours. People who are still incubating the virus and show no symptoms may spread it.
6. How contagious is the coronavirus?
A study of an outbreak aboard a cruise ship estimated that the r0 for Covid-19 was 2.28 during the early stages. That would make it more infectious than seasonal flu, which has a killed an estimated 61,000 people in the U.S. in the 2017-18 season.
7. Can people catch it more than once?
There’s no evidence of that. But “false negative” test results could give that impression. A study published March 12 showed that a small proportion of recovered patients may test positive again days after discharge. The authors theorized that it may take a few days for the immune system to completely eliminate residual viruses, which can be hard to detect. During that period, the virus may briefly rebound and, depending on the patient’s general health, there is a risk of a relapse. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the patient who retests positive is contagious, but they suggested further investigation and post-discharge surveillance.
8. Could hot weather help combat it?
The viruses responsible for influenza spread more easily during cold weather because they survive longer in cold, dry air. But there’s no evidence to suggest the Covid-19 virus would be affected by the weather.
9. What’s a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are named this way as they have a crown-like shape. There’s a large family of them, responsible for diseases that range in severity from the common cold to SARS. The WHO says that new strains emerge every so often around the globe.
10. Where did it come from?
The virus emerged in December in Wuhan, an industrial city of 11 million and capital of Hubei province. Early attention focused on a seafood market where live animals were also sold, but about a third of the first 41 cases were found to have no link to it. The genome of Covid-19 is closely related to several coronaviruses found in bats.
11. How alarming is a new virus?
There is always a concern when a new disease emerges because people typically lack immunity to it and there usually aren’t specific treatments or vaccines and this is the case with Covid-19 as well. Novel coronaviruses — those unseen in humans before — represent a particular concern because they have been known to spark complicated outbreaks that have sickened thousands of people, as SARS did as it swept across the globe from southern China.
12. What are the authorities doing?
China imposed a quarantine on Wuhan and more than a dozen other cities in late January, sealing off some 60 million people. New hospitals were built from the ground up in days, and the production of medical equipment was ramped up. With Covid-19 showing up in more places, officials began to switch their goal from stopping its spread to preparing for it amid shortages of testing kits, face masks and other equipment. Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, is the first to attempt a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread. Schools have been closed in many countries. Spain is soon on the way to being the next Italy with the number of cases increasing every day. U.S. President Donald Trump significantly restricted travel from continental Europe, on top of earlier curbs on travel from some parts of Asia, and the U.S. cautioned citizens against going abroad. Malta has restricted travels to four countries and travellers are encouraged to enforce quarantines. Schools have been closed down. All church functions including funerals and weddings have been stopped. Many other countries also are denying or restricting entry for people arriving from affected areas, including hard-hit Iran. Globally, governments are looking at a mix of cash handouts, tax breaks and transfers to counter the virus’s impact. Many, including New York City, have declared a state of emergency, closing cultural institutions and banning public gatherings. Manila imposed a lockdown. The WHO declared a pandemic, which can help mobilize international responses. The World Bank has allocated $12 billion in virus aid for developing economies.
Please stay safe. Stay home avoid contact with people. Take care of your hygiene and remain calm.