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What we know about Coronavirus so far

The outbreak in China is rapidly spreading, posing a threat to other countries in an interconnected world

Khadija El-Rabti , Tuesday 28 Jan 2020
What we know about Coronavirus so far
People wearing face masks in Beijing as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new Coronavirus (photo: Reuters)
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New coronavirus (nCoV) causes 15 more deaths in China, reports read Sunday morning, pushing the death toll up to at least 80 in total.

Across China, over 650 cases were reported this past weekend, bringing the number of confirmed diagnoses up to a staggering 2,500 cases.

There is global concern as a handful of cases have also been reported in 12 other countries, including the United States, South Korea, Thailand, Australia and other countries in Europe.

A seafood market in the central city of Wuhan, which also sold wild animals, has been shut down, being identified as a source for this novel coronavirus.

Some areas in China have been quarantined, with 60 million people in cities around the country facing partial or full lockdowns in response to the virus.

 

WHAT IS A CORONAVIRUS?: According to the World Health Organisation, coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause diseases in animals. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans.

In humans, the virus can cause fatal respiratory infections. Symptoms include those of a common cold or pneumonia. The novel coronavirus is a new strain that has been compared to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed around 800 people in 2003, similarly due to wet markets that spread the virus from dead and alive animals to humans.

According to former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the new coronavirus is likely more contagious than SARS but less severe than the previous epidemic.

“We probably will have some isolated outbreaks [of coronavirus in the US], but that doesn’t mean it’ll translate to an epidemic,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

Dr Yazdan Yazdanpaneh is a French doctor who also believes the novel coronavirus is less serious than other strains of the coronavirus family.

Dr Yazdanpaneh has been treating a couple that arrived to France from Wuhan and showed signs of the virus a few days after arrival.

The two patients are isolated in a hospital. The exact mode of transmission of the virus remains uncertain.

 

COMPLEXITIES OF THE OUTBREAK:

Chinese authorities have been intensely looking into the issue and according to the head of China’s National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, it has been noted that it is still possible for people who do not show any signs of the virus or its symptoms to carry it and infect other people. This trait is one that distinguishes the new coronavirus from SARS and makes it even more difficult to contain the spread of the outbreak.

“The epidemic has entered a more serious and complex period,” said Dr Ma.

 

SYMPTOMS OF THE NEW CORONAVIRUS:

The symptoms of the new coronavirus are similar to those of a common cold. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who have contracted the virus can show little to no symptoms whilst others can show symptoms including a fever, cough, shortness of breath and a general feeling of being unwell.

As for the incubation period, though it remains unknown, Dr Ma foresees that it could take from 10 to 14 days based on medical research on previous coronaviruses.

 

WHAT ABOUT EGYPT?: Measures are being taken in preparation for cases reaching Egypt. Egypt’s Ministry of Health has distributed guidelines to help the citizens understand how to avoid contracting the virus. The guidelines advise that people refrain from touching any live or dead wild animals, as well as putting emphasis on washing one’s hands and covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

As for Egyptians that are currently in China, the Egyptian Embassy in China has advised that if they experience any cold-like symptoms they should seek medical help immediately.

According to Reuters, Cairo International Airport has started screening passengers arriving from China for traces of the virus.

Flights between Egypt and China are many, as tourism and business are major sectors in both countries. With the new coronavirus spreading, many have cancelled their trips to the East Asian country in fear of picking up the virus.

“I was due to travel on a business trip to China but our company cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. It is only a precaution until the outbreak is under control, or at least until a vaccine or treatment is found,” said a telecommunication company employee.

 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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