Coronavirus: The Facts

Coronavirus: The Facts

The New York Times

Sara Bialkowski  , Entertainment editor

       The Coronavirus has been a popular topic of media outlets and social platforms for the past couple of weeks, with users expressing commons levels of concern: will the virus become a worldwide pandemic, and will it become the cause of the zombie apocalypse? The public’s intense degree of anxiety regarding the Coronavirus is only further increased as the disease spreads. As of now, the number of known cases in China has risen to over 7,000 people, with a death toll of 170. Outside of China, the number of those infected is around 103, with the second-most number of infected in Thailand. The number of infected within the original epicenter of the outbreak is escalating daily by over a thousand, and mainland China’s case count has now surpassed the number of those infected with SARS in the 2002-2003 epidemic of the potentially-fatal respiratory illness. In Beijing, schools have closed indefinitely, and those who have returned on flights from Wuhan in the past few weeks have been subject to increased screening processes.

But what is the coronavirus? It’s real, scientific name is 2019-nCoV, standing for “Novel Coronavirus,” which was first reported in December of 2019. ‘Novel’ is a term used to describe a strain of a virus which had previously been undocumented–Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that, in humans, cause respiratory infections. Symptoms can include: a runny nose, headache, fever, cough, sore throat, fever, and general feelings of being unwell; the symptoms of the novel coronavirus are similar, but also include fatigue, dry cough, shortness of breath, a decreased number of white blood cells in the circulatory system, and decreased function of the kidneys. Severe cases of 2019-nCOV can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), kidney failure, and even death. What makes this strain different is that it had never before been identified in humans; coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted from animals to people. Because the first documented case of 2019-nCoV appeared in Wuhan, China (700 miles south of Beijing), some health officials claim that the outbreak started at a seafood market. However, that hypothesis is being challenged by various Chinese researchers who have studied the first 41 cases. Thirteen of those first 41 infected had reported no link to a wet market, which has caused speculation as to the source of the virus. Another current thought is that the virus originated in either a bat or a snake.

What we do know is that the virus is thought to be spread from those sick with the illness to those who come into contact with someone who is infected, usually via respiratory fluids that come from coughs and sneezes. As of now, scientists are still studying the new strain for information including how easily the virus is transmitted, how long the incubation period is before a person infected begins to show symptoms, and if the virus be spread during this incubation period. The CDC currently considers the 2019-nCoV a low immediate health risk to the American public. It is estimated that in about only 20% of the novel coronavirus cases the symptoms become acute and potentially fatal. However, if it is discovered that the virus is able to spread during incubation, it will make the process of containing and prevented the illness from spreading very difficult. 

Treatment for 2019-nCoV is limited because there is no vaccine, and there likely will not be one for at least a few months, as estimated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). What can be given to patients is support of care, which is aimed toward alleviating the symptoms of the virus, rather than directly targeting the cause. At this time, this is the only course of action most medical professionals who are involved in any novel coronavirus case have available. 

It is extremely important to realize that we are far from a crisis—in America, there have been only five cases of infection reported, and no deaths. Fatality rate is at 3% out of those who do get infected, and the CDC is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to monitor the situation, and to respond to the emerging public health threat. The CDC has deployed multidisciplinary teams to Washington, Illinois, California, and Arizona, to “assist health departments with clinical management, contact tracing, and communications.” It is essential that hospitals across the globe receive proper infection control training to ensure that the illnesses caused by viruses like the coronavirus do not spread. China itself is taking action by making decisions to try and isolate the virus, including suspending all outbound transportation from Wuhan. The CDC recommends that, considering it is cold and flu season, to get vaccinated and to take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of germs. You don’t have to wear a surgical mask or a decontamination suit, just be alert. Don’t go to public places if you have any kind of sickness, and cough and sneeze into a tissue that you can put into the trash. Exercise caution, and not excessive worry.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

 

Cohen, Jon. Science. “Wuhan Seafood Market May Not Be Source of Novel Virus Spreading Globally.” American Association for the Advancement of Science: Science, Jan. 26, 2020, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/01/wuhan-seafood-market-may-not-be-source-novel-virus-spreading-globally

“Coronavirus.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Jan. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html.

“Coronavirus.” World Health Organization, www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus.