In the closing days of 2019 officials from the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province announced that a number of reports of pneumonia had occurred. At the time the virus was found to have originated at the HUANAN / SOUTH CHINA Seafood Wholesale Market, though the cause had not been defined.
On 08JAN20 the cause of the illness was identified and named “2019 novel coronavirus”. By 24JAN20 Chinese authorities had 830 confirmed cases and the spread of the virus began to move outside the Hubei province. Person to person transmissions are now being reported and the virus is now moving to other countries.
Further cases are expected although the geographic extent and size of the outbreak cannot be predicted.
Historically speaking coronaviruses are spread from host to host in a similar fashion to other respiratory infections (the common cold and flu) by infected respiratory droplets. These are expelled when the infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. There is a possibility of contracting via contact (direct or indirect) with these droplets.
Investigations into the source of the infection and how this new strain of coronavirus spreads. Transmission is possibly happening via two routes:
- ‘Environment-to-human’: Preliminary information suggests that the novel coronavirus is “zoonotic” – transmitted from an animal source to humans. The initial cluster of cases appeared to have a common source of exposure – a local live seafood and animal market.
- Human-to-human’: from a sick person to others who are in close contact. Although the virus does not appear to transmit easily between people, there is evidence for human-to-human transmission.
Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulty. Some severe cases and fatalities have been recorded. It is possible that people with underlying health conditions are at higher risk for severe disease.
Further cases have been reported where infected are not showing signs or symptoms but are still active hosts.
Specific tests have been developed to diagnose 2019-nCoV. Testing is available in some designated laboratories, and more test kits are being rolled out to affected areas. Laboratories in Japan have reported that infected persons initial tests are not showing positive results for a period of up to 72 hours.
Treatment of the new coronavirus will be supportive with medication to reduce fever and to support and improve respiratory function. There is no specific antiviral therapy against this disease. HIV medications have been utilised with some patients showing improvements in their condition.
There is no available vaccine against the 2019 novel coronavirus.
Preventive measures are to avoid potential exposure, employ general hygiene measures and safe food practices.
- Do not visit “wet” markets (markets with live animals) or farms. Avoid direct contact with animals (alive or dead) and their environment.
- Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with droppings.
- Wash your hands frequently. Carry hand sanitizer for use when soap and water are not readily available.
- Maintain good personal hygiene. Avoid touching your face.
- Keep some distance from people who are obviously sick.
- Ensure food, including eggs and meat, is thoroughly cooked.