“2019-nCov” This is the name of this new virus that strikes China and whose cases have been detected in the United States, Singapore, and Japan, which worries the health authorities around the world since its first appearance in the city Wuhan power plant in China. The virus is likely to continue to be talked about until its spread can be controlled.
On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was alerted by the Chinese authorities to a series of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. The patients had been quarantined and research into identifying the origin of pneumonia had started.
Initially, the authorities excluded the theory of human-to-human transmission, but after the latest news and following reports of several deaths, it turns out that the virus can indeed be transmitted between humans. Indeed, this virus is a close cousin of SARS which had killed 770 people worldwide between 2002 and 2003, it looks like it almost 80%.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had identified the potential origin of the virus: a seafood market in Wuhan in China.
Also called an infectious agent, a virus is a microscopic particle that infects a biologic organism (human, animal, plant, etc.). It can mutate, change shape, during its life. There are several thousand different viruses, which are responsible for diseases, some of which are mild and others can be fatal.
The coronavirus is a family of viruses, so named because of their crown shape, discovered in 1967. Not all affect humans. But some, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which appeared in China in the 2000s, was first transmitted from animal to human, then from human to human. The latter left 774 dead. Another coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which was declared in Saudi Arabia in 2012, killed 858 people.
Origins and transmission mode
The first cases identified were people who went directly to the Wuhan market, so the hypothesis of an animal-transmitted disease was favored. The animal source of the virus could theoretically include the consumption of uncooked or undercooked animal products, including milk and meat. This poses a significant risk of infection by a wide variety of organisms that can cause disease in humans. When the meat is cooked, the viruses are destroyed. Appropriately prepared animal products, by cooking or pasteurizing them, can be consumed but must also be stored with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked food.
Given the new cases reported by the Chinese health authorities since 01/2019, human-to-human transmission has now been proven. The disease is transmitted by postillions. It is therefore considered that close contact is necessary to transmit the disease. The risk becomes imminent for a person who has shared the same living space as the sick person when the latter presented symptoms or who had direct face-to-face contact less than one meter from the sick person at the time of ‘a cough, sneeze or during a discussion in the absence of effective protective measures. The evolution of knowledge in the coming weeks will allow us to learn more about the modes of transmission of this virus, its level of transmissibility, its virulence, the incubation time and the animal source of contamination.
In view of the data available on the survival of coronaviruses in the external environment and taking into account the times and conditions of transport with China, the risk of being infected with nCoV by touching an object imported from China is considered to be extremely low.
What are the symptoms caused by Coronavirus?
Manifestations of coronavirus appear less than 24 hours after infection. Most generally, it causes mild to moderate respiratory illnesses but at the same time risks to take a serious form, with symptoms close to the flu: headache, cough, sore throat, fever, aches, and a general feeling of discomfort.
More seriously, it can cause respiratory diseases of the lower tract such as pneumonia or bronchitis, or even multi-visceral failure which can lead to death, especially in people with cardiopulmonary disease, in those with an immune system weakened, in infants and the elderly. The incubation period for the coronavirus is said to be around seven days (between two and twelve days).
People with these symptoms should stay away and protect their mouths if they have a cough and use a mask if in contact with other people, wash their hands and use disposable tissues.
How to protect yourself?
Health and scientific authorities emphasize the importance of effective measures for other viral diseases such as the flu: wash your hands frequently, cough or sneeze in a handkerchief which you then get rid of, avoid touching the face … In addition, if a case is proven, the patient must be placed in isolation to avoid contagion.
The wearing of a surgical mask is recommended for sick people who have symptoms, i.e. when they cough or sneeze to avoid spreading the disease by air. The wearing of this type of mask by the non-sick population in order to avoid catching the disease is not one of the recommended measures and its effectiveness has not been demonstrated.
Since a large number of SARS and SEA patients have been infected in health care settings, precautions must be taken to prevent the virus from spreading in these facilities.
The severity of the disease
Among the cases reported to date, several patients have developed a severe form of the disease, some of whom have died, but if the relationship between deaths and known cases seems weak, the figures are not reliable. The infection seems to take a long time to kill, so more patients could still die.
Available information suggests that the virus can cause symptoms similar to those of moderate flu, but also more severe symptoms. The disease can also progress over time in a patient. Patients with pre-existing chronic diseases (such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, respiratory disease) appear to be more likely to develop severe forms, as do the elderly.
Analysis of the information available on current and new cases will increase knowledge of the disease.
Treatment of Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Unfortunately, there is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for diseases caused by this type of human coronavirus infection. The treatments are symptomatic: take pain and fever medication, rest, do not go out.
However, work to develop them is already underway. It is hoped that research to develop a vaccine against the Mers, which is also a coronavirus, will make this easier.