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Coronavirus: Everything you need to know about the Covid-19 Wuhan virus outbreak

Shajar Khan/Dubai
Filed on February 7, 2020 | Last updated on February 16, 2020 at 08.28 am
coronavirus, Wuhan, nCoV, outbreak, pneumonia, China, infection, viral, virus

(AFP)

Can you treat it? Can it spread from one person to another? All your questions are answered here.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread to several countries in over three months, and left more than 1,500 dead and over 70,000 infected. With so many questions and myths surrounding this virus, here are all the details you need to know.

1. What is a coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are found in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Animal coronaviruses can infect people and spread between people. In recent years there has been an outbreak of an animal coronaviruses that have infected humans such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronaviruses (CoV) cause illness ranging from the common cold, diarrhoea and more severe illnesses.

In December 2019, the first diagnosis of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was made. A novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

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2. Where did coronavirus come from?
The exact source of coronavirus has not been confirmed. However, the outbreak originated in the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, China.

The market is also known as a wet market where live animals are often slaughtered and skinned in front of the customer. Within the first few cases, 27 people had exposure to the market. According to scientists, it will take time to identify the exact source of the virus.

3. When and why did it start in Wuhan, China?
The novel coronavirus which started in China in December 2019 and the SARS outbreak which took place in 2003 have both started in wet markets. Researchers aren't sure how the novel coronavirus first infected people in China. Upon comparing the genetic code of the novel coronavirus to other coronaviruses, it was found to be similar with two bat coronaviruses. Further genetic analyses also indicate that the genetic building blocks of the novel coronavirus closely resembles that of snakes, specifically the Chinese cobra.

Experts suggest that a population of bats could have infected snakes, which passed the virus onto humans as they were sold at the market.

Since the novel coronavirus emerged there have been travel restrictions that are affecting over 20 million people across 10 cities which includes Wuhan, where the virus originated.

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4. How is coronavirus transmitted?
Coronavirus or COVID-19 is often spread from human to human. The virus is spread or transmitted similarly to influenza and the way that any other respiratory pathogens spread. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets are produced. These droplets may land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. It can then be inhaled into the lungs. It can also be spread through a kiss or other contacts with saliva, touching an infected person's hands or face, or by touching things such as doorknobs that infected people have touched.

It's currently unclear if a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

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Regarding respiratory viruses, people are thought to be most contagious when the infection is at its peak. With COVID-19, however, there have been reports of spread from an infected patient with no symptoms to a close contact.

5. Can coronavirus be spread by animals?
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

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6. How do you test for coronavirus?
Testing for coronavirus is done by collecting specimen samples and having them tested for the virus. The time frame of retrieving the specimen and having it tested is vital as well as the storage temperature and method of specimen sampling.

Samples include nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal extracts, bronchioalveolar lavage, tracheal aspirates, and sputum. Swab specimens should be collected only on swabs with a synthetic tip. Specimens can be stored at 4 degree C for up to 72 hours after collection.

7. Is coronavirus a new virus?
Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s. However, it is unknown where it originated from. The name coronavirus comes from their crown-like shape. The virus can affect both humans and animals. Everyone has a coronavirus infection at least once in their life, more common in childhood during fall and winter.

2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new type of coronavirus which was identified by the WHO since the outbreak in China, December 2019

8. Common symptoms of coronavirus
The symptoms of most coronaviruses are like any other upper respiratory infection, including stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath, headaches, and a fever. In most cases, you won't know whether you have a coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus, such as rhinovirus which is easily treated with over the counter medication. In more severe cases, coronaviruses can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

The coronavirus can also cause middle ear infections in children.

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9. Is there more than one type of coronavirus?
There are many types of coronaviruses. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous. However, some are serious. In 2012, 858 people died from MERS, which first appeared in Saudi Arabia and spread to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and America. In May 2015, there was an outbreak of MERS in Korea, which was the largest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula.

In 2013, 774 people died from SARS. However, there have been no reported cases of SARS as of 2015.

10. How long does the coronavirus live?
The incubation period is up to two weeks, which enables the virus to spread through person-to-person contact. Symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days (ranges vary from 2-10 days, 2-14 days, and 10-14 days), during which the virus is contagious but the patient does not display any symptoms.

The virus has been reported in 25 countries as of January 2020. It is unknown whether the outbreak will reach epidemic levels. Scientists are working to determine how quickly the virus can spread between people and at what stage the disease is most infectious.

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11. What is a pandemic?
A new disease that is spread globally is considered a pandemic. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have protection against it. Viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal influenza viruses. Coronavirus will be considered a pandemic if there are sustained population outbreaks in multiple parts of the world.

12. How dangerous is coronavirus?
Coronavirus is not a fatal virus. However, if left untreated, it may cause fatalities depending on the severity. As the symptoms differ from person to person, it's best to have treated as soon as possible.

13. Is there a cure for anyone infected with the virus?
Coronavirus is a new virus and therefore when a disease is new, a vaccine must be developed to treat it. It can take several years for a new vaccine to be developed. There is no specific treatment for disease caused by a novel coronavirus. However, many of the symptoms can be treated and therefore there are treatments available based on the patient's clinical condition.

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14. Is coronavirus always fatal?
Coronavirus is not always fatal should the infected person be treated for their symptoms in a timely and effective manner. It is important that the person is diagnosed correctly and monitored.

15. Are coronavirus patients recovering?
Many patients are recovering as they are being treated for their symptoms. The novel coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. Most infected people would recover the same way that they would from the flu.

16. How can I protect myself against coronavirus?
The are many precautions that can be taken to avoid contracting coronavirus. Listed below are standard recommendations to prevent infection spread:

. Wash your hands often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
. Stay home when you are sick.
. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
. Thoroughly cook meat and eggs
. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
. Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat)
. Healthcare facilities should enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments

Health experts have advised that only a reusable N95 respirator mask certified by an impartial agency can shield against the virus and protect others. Paper or polyurethane foam masks don't filter out particles responsible for spreading infectious agents.

The WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers. In case of symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel, travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their healthcare provider.



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