Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
On the 7th January 2020 Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a new strain of Coronavirus, following investigations into a growing number of people suffering from pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China since December 2019. The new strain of Coronavirus has been named Novel Coronavirus 2019, or 2019-nCoV.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic by nature, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. Human to human transmission of this strain of Coronavirus has been confirmed.
The incidence of 2019-nCoV is of growing concern to the World Health Organisation, healthcare providers, and people all around the world, as the number of confirmed cases and deaths continues to rise. On Thursday 30th January the World Health Organisation declared that the outbreak is a public health emergency of International concern. Currently the worst affected country remains China where more than 9,000 people have been diagnosed with 2019-nCoV and over 210 people have died. Small but growing numbers of confirmed cases have been found globally in countries including the US, the UK, the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, France, South Korea, Germany, UAE, Italy, Canada, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Finland. No deaths have been reported outside of China.
People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
Signs and symptoms of 2019-nCoV qre typical of respiratory illness, and inlcude:
- shortness of breath
- breathing difficulties.
Currently not enough is known about the epidemiology of 2019-nCoV to draw definitive conclusions about the full clinical features of the disease, the intensity of the human-to-human transmission, and the original source of the outbreak. It is thought that symptoms begin to show after around 2 - 10 days after contracting the virus. However it is not clear whether transmission may be able to occur even before symptoms show, which may add to the difficulties in stopping the spread of infection.
Practicing good hand, food and respiratory hygeine are steps you can take to protect yourself from 2019-nCoV, and the World Health Organisation has issued the following advice for people to protect themselves from contracting the virus:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
- When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
- The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
- Avoid travel if you have a fever or cough
Updates will be given on the advice of the World Health Organisation.