What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC).
The new Chinese coronavirus, a cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, has infected hundreds since the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December. Scientist Leo Poon, who first decoded the virus, thinks it likely started in an animal and spread to humans.
“What we know is it causes pneumonia and then doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment, which is not surprising, but then in terms of mortality, SARS kills 10% of the individuals,” Poon, a virologist at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, said.
It’s not clear how deadly the Wuhan coronavirus will be.
The viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold. Coronavirus symptoms include;
- a runny nose
- sore throat
- possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days.
For those with a weakened immune system, the elderly and the very young, there’s a chance the virus could cause a lower, and much more serious, respiratory tract illness like pneumonia or bronchitis.
How it spreads
When it comes to human-to-human transmission of the viruses, often it happens when someone comes into contact with the infected person’s secretions.
Depending on how virulent the virus is, a cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure. The virus can also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Caregivers can sometimes be exposed by handling a patient’s waste, according to the CDC.
There is no specific treatment. Most of the time, symptoms will go away on their own.
Doctors can relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication.
The CDC says a room humidifier or a hot shower can help with a sore throat or cough.
Drink plenty of fluids, get rest and sleep as much as possible.
If symptoms feel worse than a standard cold, see your doctor.
How can you can prevent it
There is no vaccine to protect against this family of viruses, at least not yet. Trials for a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome(MERS) vaccine are underway.
You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by:
- avoiding people who are sick.
- Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water and for at least 20 seconds
- If you are sick, stay home
- Avoid crowds and contact with others
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
- Disinfect the objects and surfaces you touch.
The virus is spreading to other neighboring countries and the Republic of Korea (ex-China) has been affected.
On 20 January 2020, National IHR Focal Point (NFP) for the Republic of Korea reported the first case of novel coronavirus in the Republic of Korea. The case is a 35-year-old female, Chinese national, residing in Wuhan, Hubei province in China.
The case-patient had developed fever, chill, and muscle pain on 18 January while in Wuhan. She visited a local hospital in Wuhan and was initially diagnosed with a cold. On 19 January, the case-patient was detected with fever (38.3 °C) upon arrival at the Incheon International Airport.
The case-patient was transferred to a national designated isolation hospital for testing and treatment. She was tested positive for pan coronavirus reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay and subsequently was confirmed positive for novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on 20 January by sequencing at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
Upon detection, the patient had chills, runny nose, and muscle pain.
The case-patient did not report visiting any markets, including Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, nor did she have known contact with confirmed 2019-nCoV cases or wild animals in Wuhan city.
The case-patient is currently under isolation, receiving treatment and is in a stable condition.
It is prudent to remind populations and health workers of the basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections by following the below mentioned measures:
- Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
- Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment;
- Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals;
- People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands);
- Within healthcare facilities, enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments.
WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travelers.
In case of symptoms suggestive of acute respiratory illness either during or after travel, the travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Health authorities should work with travel, transport and tourism sectors to provide travelers with information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections via travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry.
WHO interim guidance for novel coronaviruses
WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on Korea based on the information currently available on this event.
A press release signed by the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu assured that Ghana has in-country capacity to diagnose the infection at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.
It has cautioned the public to regularly wash their hands with soap and water, keep a distance from persons showing signs of fever and immediately seek treatment upon suspicion of infection.
“As part of measures to prevent an outbreak in Ghana, passengers from China will undergo enhanced screening procedures including the administration of health questionnaire. Health facilities have also been alerted to prepare and manage cases in case of an outbreak,” the statement noted.
Alert messages have also been sent to all regions in Ghana on the outbreak in addition to guidance information on the disease.
Enhanced surveillance at points of entry especially the Kotoka International Airport is also in full force.
Public Health Measures
The general public has been advised to adhere to the following measures:
- Regular washing of hands with soap and water.
- Hand rubbing with alcohol is also advised where available.
- Keep a distance at least one step (one meter) from a person shows signs of fever, cough and difficulty in breathing.
- If contact with a sick person or with potentially infected surfaces or objects occurs, those involved must not touch their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- It is advisable to be physically active, drink plenty of fluids, eat well, reduce stress and have enough sleep.
- People should seek treatment immediately if infection us suspected, if symptoms occur or when advised by a health worker.
- We hereby ask the general public and all stakeholders to support in efforts at preventing 2019-nCoV in Ghana.