There are now more than 1344 deaths recorded as of the first week of February due to the 2019 novel coronavirus, surpassing the number of casualties from the SARS virus in 2003.
Some close to 35,000 individuals around the world. have been affected by the illness as well. These numbers have prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global health emergency due to this new outbreak and have named the disease as the 2019- nCoV Acute Respiratory Syndrome or ARD.
The majority of the casualties and infected persons are from China. However, the virus is fast spreading as infected persons are reported in different countries in various regions. There have been recorded deaths due to the novel coronavirus outside of China, particularly in HongKong and the Philippines. Several countries have already banned flights to and from Wuhan city, China, the ground zero of the virus. There are also moratoriums on flights to and from China by airlines.
The 2019-nCoV has caused alarm in many countries. These days, governments are busy procuring and distributing face masks. Individuals and families are also hoarding items such as surgical masks, alcohol, disposable gloves, and disinfecting wipes in the hope of avoiding getting infected.
The Origin of the Virus
The 2019-nCoV emerged from China, particularly in Wuhan City in the last weeks of 2019 from people who visited the Huanan animal and seafood market. Health officials say that the virus spread from an animal to humans.
One study showed that the genetic sequence of the 2019-nCoV highly resembles the genetic sequences of coronaviruses coming from bats. What’s baffling is that the Huanan seafood and animal market does not sell this animal. Researchers believe that an unidentified animal is a carrier that transmitted the present coronavirus to human beings.
Another study suggested that snakes being sold at the Huanan market could potentially be the source of the 2019-nCoV. However, this research is being disputed by other experts who say that it remains unclear if snakes can be infected by the virus.
Quarantine Enacted in China
Wuhan City and other cities near its vicinity were placed under lockdown by the Chinese government even before the WHO called for a global health emergency. The lockdown means that residents are not permitted to venture outside of the cities. This is considered as the largest mass quarantine the world has seen as the lockdown covered 13 cities and affects some 41 million people.
Chinese authorities said these measures were designed to prevent and control the virus from spreading. The quarantine also imposed a travel ban that prevented transportation such as planes and trains from leaving the involved cities.
The Chinese government has already prohibited the sale of wildlife in the country in all possible sale points such as restaurants, markets, and online stores. It also rushed the construction of a new hospital that would house patients infected with the virus.
World Health Organization Reaction
The WHO declared a global emergency after learning of the hundreds of deaths attributed to the 2019-nCoV and reports of person-to-person transmission outside of China. Despite this declaration, the WHO says it does not find any reason to recommend a ban on trade and travel of other countries with China given that restriction of movements of good and people at a time of public health emergencies may cause more harm than good.
The global organization praised China’s leadership in implementing swift measures to contain the spread of the virus. It also recommended that Chinese authorities continue implementing an effective communication strategy and enhanced surveillance of the disease. It also urged China to speed up efforts in finding the source of the animal-to-human infection.
The 2019-nCoV is part of the big family of the coronaviruses, which can cause a variety of respiratory diseases like pneumonia, common cold, and bronchitis, to name a few. Coronaviruses rarely spread from animals to humans. This 2019 coronavirus has already reported cases of person-to-person spread, which is why experts and health officials are warning the public to be vigilant by knowing the symptoms of the illness.
Symptoms of the 2010-nCoV include cough, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing according to the Center for Disease and Control (CDC). The incubation period of the virus is anywhere from two to 14 days from exposure. One study concluded, that on average, individuals infected would show symptoms roughly five days from the time they were infected. People who are worried about their symptoms are highly advised to see a healthcare provider.
There, however, reported cases of patients who were infected with the 2019-nCoV but were asymptomatic. This means they didn’t have any symptoms but were diagnosed as having been infected by the virus.
How to Stay Safe
The WHO and governments are asking the public to remain calm despite the alarming number of deaths attributed to the 2019-nCoV as getting infected can be avoided.
Good hygiene practices and other measures, experts say go a long way in helping prevent the spread of the virus.
Regular Hand Washing
Given the reported cases of person-to-person transmission, health experts say that frequent and proper handwashing can prevent the spread of the virus. This is because surfaces can contain the virus and a person who has touched a contaminated item or surface could be infected with any virus including the new coronavirus.
It’s not enough to let the water run through one’s hands for a few seconds. The proper way of washing hands should involve both water and soap. Individuals should place their hands under running water and soap them for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.
Unfortunately, there are instances when a person has no access to running water, sinks or faucets. In such cases, experts say that alcohol-based products that have at least 60 percent alcohol would be a good substitute for actual hand washing. These products would include alcohol, hand sanitizers or alcogel Likewise, disinfecting wipes that are meant for the skin can also be used.
Using High-Level Disinfection Products
Maintaining a clean environment and surfaces will also go along way in helping prevent the spread of the 2019-noROvirus. This means people should regularly clean their homes or work areas by disinfecting them as well.
There are plenty of options in disinfecting areas and surfaces. There are disinfecting sprays to clean the air as well as concentrates to be used for mopping floors and wiping walls.
Health officials have also been warning the public that frequent and proper handwashing should be accompanied by the disinfection of items that people regularly hold and use. For example, mobile phones should also be cleaned and disinfected as people are always holding their phones. One has the option of wiping the phones with clean cloth or tissue with alcohol. There are also disinfecting wipes that can be used not only for gadgets but for surfaces like tables or chairs, too.
Maintain Social Distancing
Avoiding large crowds is also a must in the prevention of the spread of the 2019-nCoV, which is why plenty of events with a big gathering of people have been canceled or postponed by many. Experts also advise maintaining social distances or keeping a certain distance away from a person. This is especially true for anyone who is sick.
A person who needs to talk to someone should keep a safe distance. Avoiding kissing, hugging and shaking of hands are also recommended by health officials and experts.
Avoid Touching, Eyes, Nose and Mouth
Experts have been reminding the public to be mindful of their hand movements as a preventive measure. This means avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth if they have been in contact with anyone and if they have not washed their hands yet.
Practice General Hygiene Measures in Markets Selling Animals and Animal Products
The 2019-nCoV is believed to have stemmed from a yet-to-be-identified animal. As such, the WHO strongly recommends being extra careful when visiting any marketplace that sells animals and its products.
As much as possible, people should refrain from touching animals and their by-products using their bare hands. It would be a good idea to wear disposable gloves if handling animals cannot be avoided. Washing hands thoroughly after being in contact with animals and avoiding touching the face until the hands have been washed should be done. Disinfecting wipes for the skin or any alcohol-based products can be used until one has access to water and soap.
Avoid the Consumption of Raw or Uncooked Animal Products
Based on WHO guidelines, one should avoid eating undercooked or raw animal products. Likewise, milk, animal organs, and raw meat are to be handled carefully so cross-contamination with other uncooked ingredients can be avoided.
Yes, the newest coronavirus has killed hundreds and has affected thousands of individuals. Yet experts are quick to remind the public that keeping calm and heeding health officials’ advice is the best way to move forward. Governments and the private sectors, after all, are working hard to prevent further spreading of the 2019-nCoV through various means. In the meantime, people regardless of their location can also protect themselves by practicing good hygiene, avoiding close contact with animals and consumption of raw animals and animal products.