Coronavirus, the deadly illness Cthe world

WHO declares coronavirus global emergency as death toll rises China’s health commission says the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases rose to 17,205 with at least 361 deaths.

Adrianna Rodriguez, George Petras, Ramon Padilla, Jim Sergent, and Janet Loehrke,

Updated Feb. 03, 2020

The spread of China’s coronavirus, which closed a city of 11 million, leaped across continents and raised pandemic fears, may have started with something simple  a person buying food for dinner at an outdoor market.

The potency and movement of the virus has rallied the cooperation of various agencies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization, which declared the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on Thursday 30 Jan. 2020.

This time, the Chinese are sharing their research with the international scientific community. That’s far different from the way Chinese leaders handled the 2003 outbreak of SARS, another coronavirus. At that time, the government withheld information and received world criticism.

What is the Wuhan coronavirus?

The infection numbers are startling: Since Jan. 20, cases worldwide have surged from 282 to 8,235. The death toll stands at 171, according to Chinese officials.

The current coronavirus doesn’t have an official name yet. The current designation is 2019-nCoV, with 2019 for year of discovery, n for novel (meaning new) and CoV for coronavirus.

How does coronavirus compare to SARS, MERS and the common flu?

Outbreaks like this have happened before, most notably with SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2015. SARS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is commonly used as a reference in coronavirus coverage, since both originated in China and share characteristics. In all, 8,098 SARS cases were recorded, with a death toll of 774. That’s a fatality rate of 9.6%.

MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, originated in Saudi Arabia and resulted in 2,499 cases and 861 deaths, giving it a higher fatality rate of 34.5%.

With current numbers, the fatality rate for 2019-nCoV is 2.4%. The WHO said most coronavirus cases reported to date “have been milder, with about 20% of those infected experiencing severe illness.”

USA TODAY Explains: What is coronavirus, and should Americans be worried?

This is incomparable to this season’s influenza impact. Based on its weekly influenza report, the CDC estimates that there have been more than 15 million cases of the flu and more than 8,200 deaths in the 2019-2020 flu season in the U.S. alone.  “Everybody is being cautious because we’re still learning about it, but right now you’re sitting in the midst of an influenza seasonal busy-ness,” said Dr. David Hooper, chief of the Infection Control Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The risk is much higher for influenza for people in the U.S. than this new coronavirus.”

Is the virus just a problem for China? Are people quarantined?

The WHO classified 2019-nCoV as an emergency for China but hasn’t yet designated it a world-wide emergency.

As infection numbers rise, China has ordered residents in nearly a dozen cities to stay where they are. An estimated 56 million people in the country are affected by lockdowns.

Wuhan has been hardest hit. Airports and railway stations are closed and public transportation halted. Private vehicles are banned. Residents wear face masks to protect against infection. While a new, 1,000-bed hospital is under construction, there are shortages of medicine, protective masks and other supplies.

Coronavirus explained: Symptoms, spread, treatment: Countries with confirmed cases include the U.S., Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam, according to the CDC.

According to Chinese officials, 2019-nCoV first appeared Dec. 12 about 700 miles south of Beijing in Wuhan, a city with more people than New York and Chicago combined. Health officials say the outbreak originated at the Huanan Seafood Market.

Huanan Seafood, closed by officials on Jan. 01, was a wet market, one of a series of outdoor stalls selling fish and meat, some of it from wildlife. They are called wet markets because sellers slaughter and cut up animals and fish while customers wait.

The market is suspected because coronaviruses transmit zoonotic diseases, meaning they are transferred from infected animals to humans.

Researchers theorize that someone bought contaminated meat at the market, ate it, got sick and infected others, creating a ripple effect around the world. Bloomberg reported a 61-year-old man, a regular customer of the Huanan market, was the first to die from the virus.

Human coronaviruses cannot be cultivated in the laboratory easily, unlike the rhinovirus, another cause of the common cold. This makes it difficult to gauge the coronavirus’ impact on national economies and public health.

There is no cure, so treatments include taking care of yourself and over-the-counter  (OTC) medication:

 Rest and avoid overexertion.

Drink enough water.

Avoid smoking and smoky areas.

Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and fever.

Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.

The virus responsible can be diagnosed by taking a sample of respiratory fluids, such as mucus from the nose, or blood.

Human Figures

The virus can be spread from animals to people. But it also can be spread by coughing, sneezing and through close contact with an infected person or an object carrying the virus. Experts are still figuring out how long an infected person is contagious as they try to determine a point of transmission.

The coronavirus when viewed microscopically has spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a crown.

Coronaviruses are named after their appearance, round with a series of spikes made of proteins, resulting in a crown-like look. They’re one of many viruses that cause colds and flu.

A new, evolved version, such as 2019-nCov, can cause more serious illnesses, some of which can be deadly to older people or those with weakened immune systems.

Coronaviruses are found in a variety of animals. If passed from animal to human, the virus can change and infect other humans, who can spread the infection to others, according to the CDC.

Lord said that bats’ evolution has made them become carriers of these diseases without actually getting sick. She thinks they pass around these viruses to each other because they live in such large colonies in relatively small quarters. Humans are partly to blame for outbreaks as development encroaches on bats’ natural habitats, Lord said. Taking care of the environment to contain bats and keeping live markets clean are two ways humans can work to prevent outbreaks.

“The health of environment, the health of animals and the health of humans are all related,” she said. “We have to think about the whole big picture, we have to protect everything.”

Is there a vaccine for the coronavirus?

There are no drugs or vaccines for coronaviruses yet, including 2019-nCov. Doctors can only treat the symptoms they cause.

However, scientists at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia, say they were able to successfully grow the Wuhan coronavirus in cell culture outside of China for the first time ever.

Dr. Mike Catton, deputy director of the Doherty Institute, said in a statement the breakthrough provides crucial information “to assist in the assessment of effectiveness of trial vaccines.”

According to the South China Morning Post, China might already have a vaccine developed but needs more time to test it. Hong Kong University professor Yuen Kwok-yung told the paper it will take months to test the vaccine on animals and at least another year to conduct clinical trials on humans.

Who is most at risk of getting coronavirus?

Chinese scientists have decoded the 2019-nCoV DNA and made it public. Researchers are analyzing the data in hope of finding a vaccine. Hooper said that experts are still learning about the virus and information remains limited.

However, he points to elderly and people who are sick with other conditions as a demographic who are over-represented in the coronavirus death toll.

“For those who do have the disease, it seems like the elderly and people with comorbid conditions are more likely to have serious illness,” he said.

Hooper said it’s unknown if women infected with the virus can have complications while pregnant, like the Zika virus, which causes microcephaly and other fetal brain defects.

How can you prevent catching the coronavirus?

 Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20  seconds

 Avoid touching the face with unwashed hands

 Avoid close contact with people who are sick

 Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to

 cover  it, and throw the tissue away

 Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and

 surfaces

How do doctors treat the coronavirus?

There’s no specific treatment for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses but the CDC recommends taking pain and fever medications, drinking plenty of liquids and staying home to rest.

SOURCE USA TODAY reporting; Johns Hopkins University; World Health Organization; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Food and Drug Administration; Associated Press; Reuters; sciencenews.org; WikiHow; Medical News Today

Originally Published Jan. 30, 2020 – Updated Jan. 31, 2020

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