WHAT IS THE NEW CORONAVIRUS?
Here are some key features of new coronavirus that was identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and is causing an outbreak of disease in China and beyond.
• Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that get their name from what they look like under a microscope - they are spherical and their surfaces are covered with "crown"-like spikes.
• Coronavirus infections have a wide range of symptoms, including fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Mild cases can cause cold-like symptoms, while severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), kidney failure and death.
• Like other coronaviruses, the newly identified China coronavirus is being transmitted from person-to-person via droplets when an infected person breathes out, coughs or sneezes. It can also spread via contaminated surfaces such as door handles or railings.
• Infection with the newly identified virus has an incubation period of between one and 14 days, and there are limited accounts that it may also be spreading before symptoms show.
• Infectious disease and virus specialists say the scale of the current outbreak now points to "self-sustaining" human-to-human transmission. They estimate that each infected person is infecting, on average, two to three more people.
• Testing for the new China virus involves using a real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which identifies the viral RNA in a sample. These samples could be from throat swabs, cough samples, or blood samples from patients who are very ill.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF?
The World Health Organisation's standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which 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 flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care 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
- The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices