Coronavirus, or otherwise known as COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. Literally.

Following the reported pneumonia cases of unknown cause that was reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, an epidemiological alert was released by local health authorities on 31 December 2019.

Starting 31 December, 59 suspected cases with fever and dry cough were transferred to a designated hospital and an expert team of medical professionals were formed soon after the alert.

Since the cause were still unknown at that time, the diagnosis of pneumonia of unknown cause were based on clinical signs and symptoms, chest MRI, and the ruling out of common bacteria and viruses that cause pneumonia.

On 30 January, 2020 the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the WHO declared the outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern”  On 31 January, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to prepare the healthcare industry to be able to effectively respond to the outbreak of the virus.

The 2019 coronavirus is getting a lot of attention because it’s a new kind of corona virus we haven’t seen amongst humans before.  The virus has been named SARS-Cov-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) has named the disease caused by the virus COVID-19.  Also previously referred to as the 2019-nCoV (2019 novel coronavirus).

The theory is that it may have jumped from an animal population to a human species and then began spreading.

As of 09 March 2020, more than 11,362 cases have been confirmed and 3,892 patients have died.  109 countries and areas have been affected, with major outbreaks in Central China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.  More than 62,392 have recovered.

What is a coronavirus?

The whole family of coronaviruses are named corona after the word “crown”.  This refers to the way the virus looks under the microscope.

This large family of viruses causes common diseases amongst humans.  This can range from a common cold, to mild and moderate respiratory illnesses.

Other kinds of coronaviruses affects animals.  And sometimes in very rare occasions, we see corona viruses jump from the animal species to the human population as seen with MERS-CoVSARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

Human coronaviruses cause mild respiratory disease. Fatal coronavirus infections that have emerged in the past two decades are severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus.

How does this virus spread?

When a new virus emerges, health institutions often need to learn about the virus first.  And one of the things that are still being questioned is how it transmits from person to person.  We know that most respiratory viruses are spread by droplets that come out when people cough and sneeze from people about 6 feet or less in front of them.

They land on surfaces and can also be transmitted from person to person by touching those surfaces, e.g. tabletops, doorknobs etc.  Other viruses can spread in the air and can stay airborne for a longer period.

For the 2019 coronavirus, researchers are not yet sure whether it’s droplets or airborne transmission that spreads the virus from one person to another.  So, governments continue to take protection as if it was spread by the airborne route.

Many of the patients at the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, which suggested an animal to human spread.

A growing number of patients later reported no exposure to animal markets, which indicated a person-to-person spread.  Additional person-to-person spreads were later reported outside of Hubei and countries outside of China.

So, it is now confirmed that it can spread between people who are in close contact with one another and also when an infected person coughs and sneeze.

Is the coronavirus disease (COVID-10) dangerous?

Researchers are still learning about the virus and how dangerous it might be. Right now, most of the cases is in China.  There are some travellers that brought the virus too other countries.

Individuals at higher risk include

  • Older adults
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease

If you are in good health, it’s unlikely that you will die of the coronavirus.  So, there’s no need to panic. The majority of individuals who contracted the virus are between the age of 30 – 69.  The elderly and individuals with chronic diseases and an already weaken immune system are most at risk.

Youth in contrast, seem to be the best protected. Only 2.8% of the infected people at the time of 11 February reported figures, were individuals below 18 years.

Even cases among children and teens aged 10 to 19 are rare. As of Feb. 11, there were 549 cases in that age group, 1.2% of the total, China CDC found. Only one had died.

How can I avoid getting the coronavirus disease?

The precautions you can take are the same precautions you would want to take if people around you have flu.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are a manager, you should send people home who have flu symptoms.

Avoid touching your face. That’s the quickest that any virus spreads.

Stay home if you are sick. Don’t be a hero.

Sneeze or cough in a tissue and throw the tissue away – down the toilet preferably if you can.

Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently.

The CDC recommend that only people who show symptoms, should wear a facemask.

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20s.

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that is alcohol-based.

Use a mouth wash. Your nose and your mouth is where viruses breed.

What is the symptoms and how is the treated?

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after an individual was exposed to the virus.

Fever

Cough

Shortness of Breath

There is no specific antiviral treatment for the coronavirus.  Individuals are being treated for the symptoms.

People who think they have contracted the coronavirus, should phone their health care physician immediately.  Do not go to the doctor’s office, unless the doctor request you to come in for additional tests.  This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed.

How do I know what I should belief from the news and media?

This is probably the most important part of my post.  It’s important that you keep yourself updated about the latest around the coronavirus and its outbreak.

Educate yourself.  Here’s a few tips you can use to make sure the information you digest is true and accurate.

Always refer to reputable sites for information. 

There are several sites linked to the World Health Organization that will have the latest on the topic.  These sites will report the latest figures, where the outbreaks are and essential tips on how to take precaution and what to do when someone around you have signs and symptoms of the virus.

Center for Disease Control (CDC) have information on their website about what you should know, situation updates and information for specific audiences like schools, businesses, health care professionals, travel departments etc.

There is an interactive live tracking map available where you can track the outbreak of the virus.  The interactive map, which tracks the Wuhan coronavirus in near real-time, collects suspected and confirmed case data from multiple government sources.

These include the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), China’s National Health Commission, and Chinese website DXY which provides regional case estimates faster than the national level reporting organizations. Bookmark this page to get the latest information.

The World Health Organization also provides up to date information near real time. You can also follow them on twitter at @WHO.

Google has also made sure to make it easy for the public to get the right information.  When you go to google and search “coronavirus” or “covid-19” or any term related to the corona virus, the first thing you will see is a SOS Alert.

This allow you to share an SOS alert on social media.  You can use this if you want your friends and family to know that there’s a confirmed case in your immediate vicinity.

Health and Safety Information comes up right after the “top stories”.

And you will also get the safety tips.

Visits these sites daily to stay up to date on the latest information and any additional information that might be relevant to you.

There is a lot of misinformation that’s being spread about the disease.  South Africa by nature is a very suspect nation.  When something goes wrong, people are suspect. When something good happens, people are suspect.

The coronavirus has been declared a global emergency.  South Africa are biding by the same international rules and regulations for the Centre of Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

The CDC is responsible under law to report certain diseases by connecting both state and local health departments across the country and the world to discover patterns of disease and respond when needed. There is a strict protocol that should be followed for testing, treating and evaluating diseases that’s specified by the CDC.

The South African government cannot keep cases a secret and if you’re unsure whether there is a confirmed case in your town, use the live tracking map. This map is updated real-time as cases are reported.

Remember, there is a difference between a reported suspected case and a reported confirmed case.

In the case of a suspected case, it means that there’s an individual who have shown signs and symptoms of the disease and are currently being tested to confirm the disease. The results can come back negative or positive. If the results are positive, it will be reported to the CDC as a confirmed case.

Hope that helps! Don’t panic and don’t’ fear. But don’t be stupid either

Petrolene