It may seem like every time you check social media there are more and more reports of the coronavirus spreading throughout the world. Although it hasn’t been described as a pandemic (worldwide spread of a new disease), the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency. But what exactly are the facts on the novel coronavirus and what can we do to protect ourselves from it?
What is the Novel Coronavirus?
The coronavirus is an acute virus that affects the respiratory system. The term “novel” simply means that it’s new and that experts have never seen this particular virus before.
How Did it Start?
The virus originated from a wet market in the city, Wuhan in China. Wet markets put humans in close contact with live and dead animals such as chickens, pigs, snakes, bats and civets. This made it easy for zoonotic diseases to pass from animals to humans.
Why is it Called “Coronavirus?”
The term “corona” comes from the Latin word meaning “crown” which refers to the virus’ crown-head appearance with spikes sticking up. The coronavirus simply refers to the family of viruses that it’s associated with. We’ve had three coronaviruses in three decades that have known to cause severe infections; SARS, MERS and the current COVID-19.
What is COVID-19?
As “coronavirus” is the name given to the family of viruses with a crown-like head, COVID-19 is the name given to the virus itself. The name “COVID-19” was announced on February 11th, 2020 by the World Health Organization.
The Virus Does Not Only Affect Chinese People
The virus in not confined to China and Chinese people, nor is the assumption that all Chinese people have the virus true. According to WHO, when deciding on the name “COVID-19,” “We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.”
How Many People Have the Virus?
Currently, a total of 101,800 cases of coronavirus in 84 countries have been confirmed, with a death toll of 3,460. However, we rarely see the number of people who have recovered from the virus, leading some people to believe that you cannot survive it.
How Many People Have Recovered From the Virus?
A total of 55,866 people have so far recovered from the virus and their cases have since been closed. With a strong immune system we can defend ourselves from the disease but with it spreading fast, we as humans have a responsibility to prevent it from transmitting to others and prevent contracting it ourselves.
Symptoms of Coronavirus
The coronavirus has flu-like symptoms that become dangerous to those who are already vulnerable to illnesses. A runny nose, headache, fever, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing are among the symptoms of the disease. The fact that the virus spreads so easily is what has health organizations concerned, not that it could be a death sentence.
The Seasonal Flu Has a Higher Fatality Rate
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the seasonal flu which started in October 2019 has caused over 10,000 deaths, which is a significantly higher mortality rate than the coronavirus.
Should We Be Worried?
The media have been covering the coronavirus like it’s a death sentence for anyone who is infected by the disease, however, that’s not the case. According to experts, research is teaching us that the never-before-seen virus is a mild viral infection that can be fatal for people who are already susceptible to illnesses.
Who is in Danger?
Most people who catch coronavirus will suffer only mildly but for some, the virus can be very serious. Elderly people, children and people with underlying health issues such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes are more at risk. According to experts, there is a 2% mortality rate with these patients already being unwell. So that means there is a 98% chance of surviving the virus.
Are Packages Sent From China Safe?
Concerns have been circulating about whether or not it’s safe to receive deliveries from China. Experts say, it’s highly unlikely that a package would be contaminated with the virus because the infected droplets or spores may not be able to survive outside the body for very long. However, experts still don’t know for sure.
There Have Been More Serious Viruses in the Past
There have been other, more deadly, viruses before COVID-19. The outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in 2014 for example, carried a much higher fatality rate than the current coronavirus.
Can the Virus Be Passed On By Your Pet?
Although experts are learning more and more about the respiratory virus, there’s still a lot they don’t know yet. As of now, researchers haven’t seen any evidence of humans contracting coronavirus from their pets but it’s more likely that you could transmit it to them. So, be mindful of your pets and make sure they stay healthy.
Can Antibiotics Treat The Virus?
Antibiotics are the treatments used for bacterial infections, not viruses. For a virus, doctors use antiviral medication. According to the experts, there are experimental drugs in the development stage that show to have promising results when treating the coronavirus.
You Could Pass the Virus Onto Others
Even if you are someone who is not likely to be seriously affected by the novel virus, you might transmit it to someone who is. The good news is, you can prevent yourself from becoming infected and spreading it to others with these important steps...
Wash Your Hands More Frequently
It may seem like such a simple step, but washing your hands is a vital way of staying safe from any circulating virus, not just the coronavirus. You can use an antibacterial gel, but soap and water is best.
Wash Your Hands Properly
After being out in public, touching door handles and bus railings, it’s important to wash your hands properly. This means washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Focus on all parts of your hands like in-between your fingers, under your nails and around the wrists. When you’re done, turn the tap off with a tissue and throw it in the trash.
Avoid Touching Your Face
The World Health Organization is urging people to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean, as this is how the infected spores get into your body. On average, we humans touch our face with our fingers over 500 times a day and with the virus passed on through contact with spores, you need to keep those hands clean!
Cover Your Coughs and Sneezes
The coronavirus is spread through droplets from your nose and mouth, so it’s a good idea to keep a tissue with you at all times so you can cover yourself when you sneeze or cough. When you have, throw away the tissue and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hands. Handkerchiefs are not advisable as you may carry the virus around with you.
Use Your Hands Less
It's a good idea to minimize the amount of times you would touch something. For example, in an elevator, press buttons with your elbow, or if a door says “Push," use your arm to move it forward. The more you avoid using your fingers, the less likely you'll pick something up that you could pass onto your eyes, nose or mouth.
Don’t Come In Contact With Sick People
If you are hanging around someone who is unwell, you are more likely to catch something from them. Even if you have a strong immune system, you could still pass it on to someone else who isn’t as healthy.
Wear Masks Sparingly
Wearing masks that cover your mouth and nose are only really important when you have the virus already or you’re in close contact with someone who has. According to research, there isn’t much evidence to confirm that masks are helpful in protecting you during everyday life. A lot of the time, people are not even wearing their masks the correct way.
Do not fly if you are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus as you may spread the virus to a country that isn’t infected. If you have planned an upcoming trip and you’re worried about the virus, log on to https://www.cdc.gov/ to view the various travel warnings for countries with current outbreaks. For example, Iran recommends: “Do Not Travel” and Italy recommends: “Reconsider Travel.”
If You Think You Have the Virus, See a Doctor
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, stay indoors and avoid contact with others. Instead, call your doctor immediately and inform them if you’ve recently travelled. Your doctor will then advise you on what to do next. For more information on the novel coronavirus and how to stay safe, visit https://www.who.int/