What all we know about the new coronavirus

25 January, 2020 12:00 AM printer

The novel coronavirus, which is a respiratory virus, is causing worldwide panic. While we are still not sure about the true lethality of this virus, it is claiming lives and health officials are trying to contain the virus with travel restrictions and lockdowns.

The outbreak is being traced back to a market selling live poultry, seafood and animals in Wuhan, China. But the virus is now spreading in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States. Certain other countries are still evaluating probable cases.

While the information available on this newly identified virus is not yet enough, here is a quick rundown of what we have figured...

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses can infect both animals and people, leading to respiratory tract illness with symptoms ranging from common cold to severe conditions like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Not many are aware that this is not the first time its outbreak has been reported. During a 2003 attack, it had killed nearly 800 people. Over a period of time, the virus particle in this category continued to change its antigenic structure, leading to the new virus.

The biggest concern is that within a short period of time many people have been affected and hospitalized. In the last 10 days, from 17, the number of affected cases have gone up to around 200+ in China followed by 5 countries including the United States. The outbreak has been observed in places like Japan, Korea, China and Thailand.

Symptoms of novel coronavirus

Coronaviruses cause upper respiratory infections like runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and may be accompanied by fever sometimes. Most people can confuse its symptoms with that of regular cold or flu virus.

In some people, the symptoms may appear mild like dry cough, fever, heavy breathing but other cases may develop viral pneumonia (and severe acute respiratory syndrome), putting their life at risk. The incubation period of the virus is not known yet and is assumed to be anywhere in the range of 10 to 14 days.

A study of the people who succumbed to the virus revealed that they were already suffering from some underlying conditions. They were either frail, had heart disease or cancer already, which basically means their immune system was compromised and their bodies could not fight the virus. However, the information coming in on the virus is rapidly changing so we cannot be completely sure.

Do we have a treatment in place?

As all coronaviruses do, this one has also come from animals but it looks like it transfers from one person to another. However, there is no treatment available at the moment. Antibiotics won’t work on this one because it is a virus and antibiotics work only on bacterial infections. This needs antiviral treatment but we do not have any such treatment available that will surely work on it.

What should you do?

To stay protected, it is important that people stay safe from any kind of pneumonia virus. Maintaining good hand hygiene is also important - wash your hands regularly and do not touch your face or mouth much. Some experts are also recommending the use of masks, however, international agencies feel that it cannot curtail the virus from traveling.      —Times of India