What is coronavirus ?
The “corona” in the name of the virus means a simple crown. This is because the virus has a barbed edge around it. Coronavirus, like most representatives of a huge family of viruses, often infects animals. In this case bats and birds which first quickly infected their colonies and reached people.
Last December, a new type of coronavirus was confirmed in Wuhan, the Hubei province, China. The new virus was similar to the SARS (the deadly coronavirus that killed nearly two hundred people in 2003). As other coronaviruses, COVID-19 was first noticed in animals and the first infected people got it by eating infected meat.
The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency in order to protect countries with poorly-developed health systems that may not be able to manage the infection spread properly.
How do people get infected?
People can get infected by eating infected meat (mostly in the Asian region, but experts recommend to cook meat properly anyway) or by contacting droplets from coughing or sneezing.
How can I protect myself and my elders?
First of all, you should avoid attending public gatherings (performances, concerts, etc) and limit your visits to any places where you can meet many people (shopping malls, subway, etc) — for example, use a car instead of public transportation.
Do not shake hands with people, stay away from people having symptoms of a flu-like disease (the WHO recommends to keep at least 1-meter distance).
Wash your hands often, wash them for at least 20 seconds, try to use soap or sanitizers.
Do not touch your eyes, mouth and nose. The virus cannot get inside your body “through” your skin but it can get there “through” your mucosa.
Please, teach your children to follow these rules — the virus is not dangerous for kids, but they may bring the virus home if they do not follow them.
As the virus is dangerous mostly for people in their 70s and 80s, take care of your elders. It is even better to transport them to rural (not highly populated) areas.
There is not enough evidence that wearing masks will help those who do not have any symptoms, but masks could help not to spread drops of saliva if symptoms are present. So, please, stay at home if you are sick and wear a mask to minimize risks for your family.
Should I travel?
It is better to avoid places that are close to the current centers of the outbreak. Though, travelling to the center of the outbreak can be even impossible because of quarantine in such areas and restrictions put by countries.
Should I shop online abroad?
Viruses cannot stay active outside body cells, so international shipping is safe.
Is Coronavirus so deadly?
The 2019-nCoV attacks the respiratory system. According to the WHO, the incubation period can last for 10 days, then patients usually develop a cough, fever, fatigue and shortness of breath. Sometimes pneumonia can be registered. There is information that some people can experience very mild symptoms or can even be asymptomatic. Intensity of the symptoms will depend on patients’ general health and on their immune system. That is why the majority of the deaths were confirmed in elderly people and in people with other chronic diseases.
Most people are expected to make a full recovery. An expert at China’s National Health Commission says that mild symptoms may resolve in one week, while more severe may be present for 2-3 weeks. That is why the last week of January was the first week since the beginning of the outbreak when the number or recoverу cases exceeded the number of deaths. More than 63o people have recovered by February 4, The Guardian reports.
At the same time, according to Zhan Qingyuan, director of pneumonia prevention and treatment at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, people who have recovered may not be immune to the virus — they may have a relapse later.
Despite the fact that the number of registered deaths from COVID-19 has already exceeded the number of deaths from SARS from November 2002 to July 2003, the new virus seems to be less deadly (more people are ill, so the percentage of lethal outcomes is lower). According to WHO, fatality ratio of the new infectious agent is about 3.4%. SARS had 10% and “basic” flu has 0.05% ratio.
Are there vaccines?
No vaccines have been registered yet despite the fact that several companies said they would be ready to test their vaccines soon. Even if the vaccine will be invented, it would take at least a couple of months to properly test it, to understand how safe and effective it is.
Can we get the virus from pets?
There is not enough evidence that people can get infected after contacting their pets. There are cases of allegedly infected and therefore quarantined dogs and cats but scientists are still trying to understand if the pets were really infected and could infect other pets or people.
How do we treat the coronavirus?
Since we do not know how to treat most of the viruses, we usually treat symptoms (drink a lot of water to be properly hydrated, use medicines to treat cough and sneezing, stay in bed, etc). There are no target drugs for the coronavirus available yet. If you have any symptoms, please, consult with your doctor and follow the prescriptions.
When and how will the outbreak end?
There is no answer to this question.
As times goes by, more and more patients will recover and more and more affected people will be isolated and will not be able to spread the virus. After that, the virus may simply “die out” because NOT everyone can get infected (some of us have genes that make us unsusceptible). “Disease outbreaks are a bit like fires,” the VOX expert writes. “The virus is the flame. Susceptible people are the fuel. Eventually a fire burns itself out if it runs out of kindling. A virus outbreak will end when it stops finding susceptible people to infect.” Coronavirus ने इटली को किया अलग थलग , एक रिपोर्ट
Additionally, international coordinated actions may help stop the disease. Limiting the infection to small isolated areas, creating the vaccine (the genome of the virus is already known and scientists are using it to “find a cure”) and new protocols of treatments will make the virus “die out” faster.
If the virus does not “die out”, that will not necessarily lead to something terrible. Not at all. The virus may become a part of our “usual virus set” — become another common virus. That happened to the H1N1 flu virus that had frighten the whole world in 2009 but now is just one of many every-year flu viruses.
Anyway, the second “Spanish flu” epidemic is not among the most possible scenarios. (Please, remember that at the beginning of 20th century there were no developed quarantine measures and diagnostic tools. Treatment of chronic diseases was also not as developed as it is now).