- The deadly Wuhan virus has killed six people in China and infected hundreds in south and eastern Asia.
- On Tuesday, the CDC confirmed that the Wuhan virus has spread to the US. The patient travelled from China to Washington state.
- Coronaviruses are a collection of diseases common amongst animals. Scientists have identified seven strains that can spread to humans.
- Two of those coronaviruses, SARS and MERS, are deadly for humans.
- The CDC recommends people be scrupulous about handwashing and avoiding contact with sick people in order to prevent sickness.
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A new coronavirus is wreaking havoc in China. It was first identified in an outdoor market in Wuhan, before spreading to Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.
On Tuesday, the CDC confirmed that the US has its first case of Wuhan virus. The patient in question travelled from China to Washington state.
Experts are saying the effects might be even worse than the news accounts. Patients have experienced fevers, coughing, and pneumonia. So far, six people have died and 291 have been infected.
Here’s what you need to know about the disease.
Coronaviruses are common among mammals. They rarely spread to people.
According to the CDC, a coronavirus is a collection of viruses that are common among mammals, like camels and bats. Coronaviruses work by invading the respiratory system. Most coronaviruses infect animals and not people, although scientists have identified seven strains that can spread to humans.
Scientists still don’t know why certain coronaviruses can infect people.
Many illnesses, like the common cold, are caused by coronaviruses. While most coronaviruses are mild, at least two have been identified as deadly. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, known as SARS, had an outbreak in southern China in 2003, killing hundreds. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, known as MERS, was first identified in Saudi Arabia in September 2012, and has been labelled by the World Health Organisation as one of the most immediate threats to global health. “About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died,” the CDC reported.
The virus started in animals, but it can be spread through human contact
Scientists believe civet cats, native to southeast Asia, first spread SARS to humans, while camels might be responsible for transmitting MERS to humans.
Scientists connected China’s current outbreak to the Hunan market, where live animals are sold. The outbreak, experts believe, began at the market and was then transmitted to others via human to human contact, which happens when a person comes in contact with a sick person’s fluids.
Human coronaviruses typically spread from one person to another through coughing or sneezing, shaking hands with someone infected, or by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching one’s hands, mouth, or eyes. It is rare, but faecal contamination is also a way to contract a coronavirus.
Symptoms include runny nose, pneumonia, and fever
The symptoms for coronavirus include pneumonia, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and fever.
Coronaviruses are more dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, such as younger children and older adults. Pets are also at risk of catching coronaviruses, which can lead to disease and even death. The more dangerous coronaviruses, like SARS and MERS, can cause stillbirths and could infect breastmilk or cord blood, according to previous research.
There is no way to prevent catching a coronavirus, but the CDC says handwashing will help
There is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection, though trials for a MERS vaccine are ongoing, and antibiotics cannot treat a viral illness.
According to the CDC, the best way to protect yourself is by paying careful attention to cleanliness. Guidelines say a robust hand-washing should last for at least 20 seconds.
As with the flu or any other kind of respiratory virus, experts advise to avoid contact with sick people, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
The CDC urges anyone who comes down with coronavirus symptoms to stay home, avoid contact with others, and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
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