Someone infected with the COVID-19 corona virus can spread it with just a simple cough or sneeze, scientists say.
It has now been confirmed that at least 1,116 people have died with the virus and more than 45,180 people have been infected in at least 28 countries and regions. But experts predict that the actual number of people with the disease can be 100,000 or even 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn that in 100 cases it can kill as many as two. This is what we know so far:
What is the corona virus?
A corona virus is a type of virus that can cause disease in animals and humans. Viruses break into cells in their host and use them to reproduce themselves and disrupt the normal functions of the body. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word “corona”, which means crown, because they are enveloped by a pointed shell that looks like a royal crown.
The corona virus from Wuhan is one that has never been seen before this outbreak. It is called COVID-19, which stands for 2019 coronavirus disease, after it was first discovered at the end of December last year.
Dr. Helena Maier of the Pirbright Institute said: “Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different types, including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats, and wildlife.
“Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses that are known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild, common cold, but two new coronaviruses have emerged since 2002 that can infect people and lead to more serious illnesses (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronaviruses).
“Coronaviruses are known to occasionally jump from one species to another and that has happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known. ”
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where around 11 million people live, after physicians first publicly reported infections on December 31.
On January 8, 59 suspected cases were reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and registered cases began to rise.
The first person died that week and on January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people were infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Only a week later there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimate that around 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – had been infected in Wuhan alone. At that time, 26 people had died.
On January 27, more than 2,800 people were infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.
On January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and the number was more than 6,000.
On February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.
On 11 February this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths.
Where does the virus come from?
Scientists say the virus almost certainly comes from bats. Coronaviruses generally have a tendency to come from animals – it is thought that similar SARS and MERS viruses originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people who visited or worked in a market for live animals in the city, which has since been closed for investigation.
Although the market is officially a fish market, other dead and live animals were sold there, including wolves, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, showed that the genetic makeup virus samples found in patients in China are 96 percent comparable to a corona virus found in bats.
However, there were not many bats on the market, so scientists say it was likely that there was an animal that acted like a middle man, pulling it out of a bat before handing it over to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr. Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved in the research, but said: “The discovery definitely explains the origins of nCoV in bats in China.
“We still don’t know if another species served as an intermediate host to strengthen the virus, and possibly even to bring it to market, nor what species that host could have been.”
Until now, the deaths are fairly low. Why do health experts worry so much about it?
Experts say that the international community is worried about the virus because so little is known about it and it seems to be spreading fast.
It is similar to SARS, which has infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in the sense that it is a type of corona virus that infects people’s lungs.
Another cause for concern is that nobody has immunity to the virus because they have never encountered it before. This means that it may cause more damage than viruses we often encounter, such as the flu or a cold.
Professor Peter Horby, professor at Oxford University, spoke during a briefing in January: “New viruses can spread through the population much faster than viruses circulating all the time because we are not immune to them.
“Most seasonal flu viruses have a death rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we are talking about a virus for which we do not fully understand the severity spectrum, but it is possible that the mortality rate can go up to two percent. “
If the death rate is really two percent, it means that two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
“My feeling is that it’s lower,” Dr. added. Horby. “We probably miss this iceberg of milder things. But that is the current condition in which we find ourselves.
“Two percent of the fatal cases are comparable to the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, so it is a major concern worldwide.”
How does the virus spread?
The disease can spread between people, only through coughing and sneezing, making it a highly contagious infection. And it can also spread before someone has symptoms.
It is believed that it travels in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing and parts of cutlery or utensils are all risky.
It was originally thought that people would catch a market for live animals in the city of Wuhan. But soon cases occurred to people who had never been there, so doctors had to realize that it spread from person to person.
There is now evidence that it can spread the third hand – to someone from a person who has caught it from another person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus, it can take two to 14 days, or even longer, before he or she shows symptoms, but they can still be contagious during this time.
When and when they get sick, typical symptoms are runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 percent based on available data – will recover without problems or medical assistance.
In a small group of patients, who appear to be mostly elderly or people with long-term illnesses, this can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the inside of the lungs swells and fills with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if not treated, can be fatal and suffocate.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have registered the genetic sequences of about 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and possibly look into the treatment of the disease they cause.
Research has shown that the coronavirus did not change much – change is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
The director general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said, however, that the virus mutated and adapted as it spread through people.
This means that efforts to study and possibly control the virus can be made extra difficult because the virus can look different every time scientists analyze it.
More research can show whether the virus first infected a small number of people and then changes and spreads, or whether there are different versions of the virus from animals that have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has so far killed 1,116 people out of a total of at least 45,188 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two percent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish flu outbreak that killed around 50 million people in 1918.
However, experts say that the actual number of patients is probably considerably higher and therefore the mortality rate is considerably lower. Researchers at Imperial College London estimate that there were 4,000 cases in Wuhan alone until 18 January (up to 9,700) – officially there were only 444 until that date. If cases actually occur 100 times more often than the official figures, the virus can do a lot. less dangerous than is now thought, but also much more dispersed.
Experts say it is likely that only the most seriously ill patients seek help and are therefore registered – the vast majority will only have mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions get worse, there is a risk of pneumonia that can destroy the lungs and kill you.
Can the virus be cured?
The COVID-19 virus cannot currently be cured and it is difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are excluded. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus and then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
There is no vaccine for the coronavirus yet and it is unlikely that a vaccine will be developed in time that could be useful in this outbreak for similar reasons as above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this can take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to control the virus and care for patients who are sick and prevent them from infecting other people.
People who contract the disease are quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they are away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are implementing screening measures, such as having doctors on site, measuring people’s temperature to monitor fever, and using thermal screening to detect those who may be sick (infection causes an elevated temperature).
However, it can take weeks for the symptoms to appear, so there is only a small chance that patients will be noticed at an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak is an epidemic when a disease occurs in a community, such as a country or region.
Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak has not yet been classified as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the “global spread of a new disease.”
Dr. Sylvie Briand, head of global contagious preparation for contagious dangers, said: “We are not currently in a pandemic. We are in the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci and we are trying to put an end to the transmission in each of these foci, “the Guardian reported.
She said that most of the cases outside of Hubei were “flooded” from the epicenter, so the disease did not spread actively around the world.