Jan 30 , 2020
A new SARS-like virus is spreading through China and has infected nearly 300 people, according to the latest News24 report. The first case has just been identified in Washington in the USA, and airports are implementing screening measures to curb the spread of the disease.
This virus appears to be an entirely new strain of coronavirus (novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV), even though it may be closely related to the virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) a number of years ago.
So what exactly is this “new illness” and how is it similar to SARS?
1. Why is it called 'novel coronavirus' or 2019-nCoV?
The word “corona” means crown and “novel” means new. These groups of viruses are named coronavirus because of the distinct, crown-like spikes you can see under a microscope.
A new strain has been discovered, hence “novel”. The abbreviation is nCov and 2019 signifies the year it was first identified. For simplicity, we will refer to it as the new coronavirus.
2. What exactly is the coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat and cough or fever. Some cases are mild but others are more severe and can lead to deadly pneumonia.
In the past, strains of the coronavirus have caused serious outbreaks of illnesses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which was first reported in Asia in February 2003, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) which was identified in Saudi-Arabia in 2012.
Both SARS and MERS had symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath in common. The deadliest cases included pneumonia.
3. What are the initial symptoms of this new coronavirus?
Common signs of the newly identified coronavirus have been listed by the World Health Organization
- Breathing difficulties, wheezing and shortness of breath
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome
- Kidney failure
Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after you’re exposed to the virus
4. Where did the new outbreak start?
In December 2019 a patient in Wuhan city, Hubei Province of China, reportedly complained of symptoms similar to pneumonia and visited a local hospital. Within days, patients presented with similar health problems and officials started investigating this new illness. On 31 December 2019, WHO was alerted to several cases.
One week later, on 7 January, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a new virus. The new virus is a coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as SARS and MERS. This new virus was temporarily named “2019-nCoV.”
As of 26 January 2020, more than 2,000 people have been infected, and 58 have died.
5. How does the new coronavirus spread?
Health officials are not sure of the source of the virus yet or how easily it can spread. Coronaviruses are found in many different animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. One research paper also suggested snakes as a possible source. The new virus may be linked to seafood and live animal market in Wuhan that has since been closed
The virus can spread from person to person. Health officials are seeing this happen most often where people are close together and in health care settings.
6. Is there a vaccine?
There is no vaccine, but the National Institutes of Health is working on one and hopes to begin testing in several months. That testing would be for safety. If it’s safe, there would be testing to see how well it works.
7. How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment for the virus. Patients are generally given supportive care for their symptoms, such fluids and pain relievers. Hospitalized patients may need support with breathing.
How to reduce your risk of Coronavirus infection: