Is Coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection), a global Epidemic?
By now news of the outbreak of the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection) has spread to all corners of the globe and seems to only gain steam as the days’ progress. At the time of writing this article, over 6000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with the official death toll clearing 130 – though many speculate the number to be much higher.
With all the coverage happening, so too is the spread of confusion and misleading travel advice. Here we’d like to cover just some of the simple facts and what you can do to help prevent the spread.
Coronavirus and its types
The coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection) is not actually a single virus but a representative from the coronavirus family. So the effects of catching viruses can vary widely, ranging anywhere from basic flu-like symptoms to life-threatening respiratory conditions such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection) is thought to have originated in mammals and birds, where infections with the virus can easily become the cause of fatal diseases. In humans, the virus most often presents itself as a non-threatening common cold, and even it’s worst form, is considered milder than SARS which experienced a breakout in the early 2000s. In other words, we are witnessing the mutation of the coronavirus.
How can it be a communicable disease?
The virus is capable of being directly transferred between humans and animals, which has contributed to the theory that it began with exposure to an infected animal in a market in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province in Central China.
By far the highest concentration of all confirmed cases and deaths remain are from Wuhan and the surrounding area, although now there have been numerous cases confirmed within individuals and families who have never visited China.
What Precautions are held by the international community?
While many airlines have begun to scale back on service in and out of the danger zones, a few such as British Airways and Seoul Air, have gone so far as to completely halt all flights to and from the entire country of China.
Many countries have also introduced additional screening measures when permitting travelers coming from China into the country. Quarantine procedures including detecting any individuals with a cough, fever or shortness of breath.
How can you protect yourself and prevent the spread of the coronavirus?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent Coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection). The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- 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.
The bottom line
With given statistics and complexity of Coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection), the number of cases and deaths are likely to climb. We shouldn’t panic even though we are dealing with a pernicious and novel pathogen. Public health communities are uniting. Lessons learned from other detrimental cases, such as SARS and MERS, will aid in further R&D. As further developments are available, global health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will be sharing with the international communities.