Coronaviruses are a type of virus that can affect humans and animals. Some coronaviruses cause illnesses like the common cold and others cause more serious illnesses, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). There is a new coronavirus affecting people who have recently been in the city of Wuhan, China. At present, this coronavirus is called ‘novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV’.
Why is it a concern to Australians?
Most of the early reported cases in China had contact with a seafood and live animal market, suggesting an animal source of the outbreak. However, recent developments in coronavirus research amidst the current epidemic in China highlights the capability of the virus for human to human transfer. Given the current spread of the disease in Wuhan, China and reports of its exposure to other countries, there is a heightened concern for a possible pandemic.
As at 30th January 2020, there are more than 7800 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus globally across 20 countries, with over 170 reported deaths. Similarly, In 2002, SARS spread virtually unchecked to 37 countries, causing global panic, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing more than 750. MERS appears to be less easily passed from human to human, but has greater lethality, killing 35% of about 2,500 people who have been infected.
Symptoms of Coronavirus Infection
Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention. It is also understood that a person maybe contagious for up to 14 days without symptoms, i.e. potentially transfer infection to others over 14 days without symptoms.
Who is at Risk?
Novel coronavirus can infect any person, child or adult, alike normal cold & flu infections. The virus is of most concern for the elderly and those with chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems. These groups my experience an exacerbation of their symptoms and acute pneumonia or SARS/MERS symptoms.
How is Coronavirus Infection Treated and/or Prevented?
Currently, there is no specific treatment for people infected with novel coronavirus (n-CoV), but general supportive medical care in hospital can be life-saving. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends measures to reduce general risk by;
- Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
- Frequent hand-washing, specially direct contact with ill people or their environment;
- Avoid close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals;
- People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette
When & How to Seek Medical Help?
If you develop a fever, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel to an affected area or have had contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, you should immediately isolate yourself from other people. Contact your GP or your emergency department or call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222 and seek medical attention as soon as possible. People who believe they have coronavirus, been in contact with someone who may be affected or have general enquiries can also call 1800 300 243.
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Disclaimer: 1300 Dr To Me provides free health information blogs for the community to increase awareness on health & medical topics. The information in this article is educative and does not constitute diagnosis. Please consult a doctor, or request an urgent after hours GP visit should you or your children experience allergic symptoms.