Early this month, the Chinese government announced that it had identified a new virus of the coronavirus family in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.
Since the pronouncement, the death toll and number of new infections have risen and spread across several countries outside China; Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the US, Vietnam, France, Germany and Canada.
There are now fever checks at airports and other ports of entry in most countries as experts fear that the situation may worsen before it gets better.
What are coronaviruses?
It is a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses in humans including common colds and more severe forms like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) which are life-threatening.
The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word corona, meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus resembles the solar corona. The current strain has been named 2019-nCoV.
How it spreads
According to the World Health Organization, Coronaviruses, in general, are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Once people are infected, coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS – which the 2019-nCoV resembles – mainly spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, just like colds and flu.
What are the symptoms?
The main clinical signs and symptoms reported by WHO in this outbreak include fever, difficulty in breathing, and chest radiographs showing bilateral lung infiltrates.
In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. The incubation period of the coronavirus remains unknown.
But WHO notes that not enough is known about the epidemiology of 2019-nCoV to draw definitive conclusions.
According to WHO, standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Additionally, it is recommended that you use a separate bathroom if living with and caring for someone who is infected.
If infected, you should restrict activities outside your home, except if going to get medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transportation or taxis, the CDC advises.
People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette, that is, maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands.
It is advised that one should wash his/her hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, the CDC says.
You shouldn’t share dishes, drinking glasses, towels, bedding, and other items with other people in your home once an infection is suspected.
If you travelled to China in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:
Note: This story was originally published by the Daily Nation website: https://www.nation.co.ke/news/explainers/Explainer–What-you-need-to-know-coronavirus/5337446-5436026-bvffs0z/index.html
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