The number of novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) cases and deaths continues to climb not only in China, but in many Asian countries.
While official data from the World Health Organization indicates that it’s still premature to consider it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, stresses that it is a “continuously evolving and complex situation.”
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.
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Coronaviruses are zoonotic, 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 coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through 1) the air by coughing and sneezing; 2) close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; 3) touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands; and 4) fecal contamination (rarely).
Symptoms of coronavirus may include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever, and a general feeling of being unwell.
Update on novel coronavirus
A total of 581 confirmed cases have been reported for novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) globally, according to the report released by WHO last January 23. Of the 581 cases reported, 571 cases were from China. There were also cases in Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Taipei, Macau Special Administrative Region, United States of America, and the Republic of Korea. All had travel history to Wuhan. Seventeen deaths have been reported (all from Hubei Province).
The source of coronavirus is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear, the Chinese health authorities noted.
WHO said it is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing, prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO.
Keep viruses at bay
WHO gave their standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of the novel coronavirus. These include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:
• Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
• When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with tissue. Throw tissue away immediately and wash hands.
• Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough.
• If you have fever, cough, and experience difficulty in breathing, seek medical attention 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.
• Avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. Raw meat, milk, or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.