Explainer: Coronavirus

Just seven weeks into 2020 and the world is experiencing quite possibly one of the most dangerous viral outbreaks in recent years. The World Health Organisation (WHO) even declared the breakout of the coronavirus as a global emergency, and it has already cost the lives of over a thousand people. But as many of us panic about the virus, we need to ask ourselves what exactly it is and what we need to do to protect ourselves from it.  

According to the WHO, the virus has infected tens of thousands of people across the world, and as of Tuesday, chief of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus officially named the virus Covid-19. 

The previous word coronavirus refers to the group of viruses by which this latest infection belongs to, with the new name Covid-19 accurately representing the current strain of the virus, according to reports by the BBC. 

The Covid-19 virus was first found in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province in eastern China. The city holds over 11 million citizens, and in late 2019, the coronavirus was first detected here. 

Various media outlets in China reported the virus as early as a week before Christmas and many believe the spread of the virus to humans is down to locals in the area buying and eating products from a wholesale seafood market in the city. 

Healthline stated that since these reports, the market has been shut down for cleaning and disinfection. Nikhil Bhayani who works with Texas Health Resources regarding infectious diseases told the organisation that the first appearance of the virus is from “animal to human.” 

While this news of how the virus was first transmitted has been made aware to people all over the world, a lot of people believe that the first person infected by the virus was resulting from a viral video posted on social media platforms of a women eating soup with a dead bat in it, thus transferring the virus to humans. However, this has not been confirmed by medical experts. 

The word ‘corona’ translates to ‘crown’ and it is known that the virus appears in crown shapes when looked at through a microscope, hence the name. 

Previously the virus was spread solely through animals, but now that humans have been infected, it can be spread by us too. Not enough evidence has been obtained by medics to state how easily the virus can spread, but experts do know that at the moment it is spread primarily through respiration so coughing, sneezing and exhaling. 

Measures of controlling the outbreak have been taken, with those showing strong symptoms and testing positive for the virus being placed in quarantine to reduce the spread. In the Hubei province, an overall lockdown has been placed on the city of Wuhan with residents being told to stay indoors and refrain from going outside without wearing masks to reduce the risk of catching the virus. 

In other countries, those who have recently travelled from China and other parts of Asia known to have confirmed cases are being tested immediately. A majority of known airlines have cancelled flights to regions of Asia to prevent transmission. As well as this, people who have landed from flights travelling from Asia are being quarantined and tested too.  

Imports from China have also been put under strict restrictions, as there is a possibility that the virus can travel and spread from objects where someone who has been infected may have had contact with. 

As far as we know, there are several countries with confirmed, some of which are in the EU. Germany has a total of 16 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, February 12. The USA has 11 confirmed cases while the UK has up to 8 confirmed cases. 

Australia, France and Italy also have confirmed cases while nearly all of Asia has confirmed outbreaks, with most cases being in mainland China and Japan. 

Symptoms of the virus are having difficulty breathing, muscular pain, coughing, a fever and fatigue. Serious cases can lead to pneumonia, sepsis, septic shock as well as acute respiratory disorder, according to a report by European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 

While there is no specific treatment that is yet known, if you do show symptoms of the virus it is important to go to the doctor who will then follow protocol. 

It’s equally important to avoid contact with those who are sick and to follow the usual hygiene precautions about covering your mouth when sneezing/coughing and regularly washing your hands.