So, unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of coronavirus, the mysterious, rapidly-spreading illness that has just been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Did you know that the term coronavirus (CoV) actually refers to a large family of viruses that can be responsible for a range of illnesses, from your common cold to more deadly viruses like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) that we saw a few years ago, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The latter is perhaps more infamously remembered as SARS-CoV. This current strain of coronavirus, labelled novel coronavirus (nCov) by the WHO, is a strain that has not previously been identified in human beings.
It’s important to note that all viruses that fall under the umbrella of the CoV are zoonotic. This means they are transmitted between animals and humans, although the first human-to-human transmission was reported in Chicago last week.
Given how rapidly this illness has spread, the number of lives claimed by this deadly illness is ever-changing, but at last count (as of January 29), Chinese health officials had reported upwards of 8000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with the death toll at approximately 200 souls. Additionally, there are more and more presumptive cases of coronavirus identified in nations around the globe every single day.
Misinformation has spread quickly, whether it’s in reference to the number of people affected and killed, or how the virus got started. To combat that, we’ve put together this definitive summary of everything you need to know to protect yourselves against this illness, directly from the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC).
What Symptoms Should I Look For?
So, it seems that the symptoms you should be on the look out for are the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Pneumonia (in severe cases)
- Kidney Failure (in severe cases)
Of course, a number of experts have warned that some cases of nCov have presented without any signs of symptoms, so the most important thing you can do is take preventative measures to protect yourself and those around you. Additionally, if you don’t feel well, even in the slightest, it’s better to be safe than sorry. GET YOURSELF CHECKED OUT!
How Can I Protect Myself?
Speaking of preventative measures, here are a list of standard recommendations to help prevent coronavirus or any other illness:
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. The proper etiquette is to sneeze/cough into a tissue and dispose of that tissue right away. If that’s not an option, sneeze into your upper arm rather than your hands.
- Regular hand-washing. Personally, I make it a habit to wash my hands when I arrive at any destination, whether it be home, work, or my college campus. Does this take time? Sure. But it’s also the best preventative measure.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or hand wash.
- If you’re visiting an area currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct and unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.
- Throughly cook meat and eggs, and avoid consuming any uncooked animal products..
The use of face masks has not been mentioned by the WHO. However, if you do intend to use a surgical face mask for protection, here’s a handy little graphic to help you understand the different types of masks (courtesy of BioGirlMJ from Instagram), and which will offer you the best protection under the circumstances:
Whilst I understand that these recommendations may seem basic, honestly, they are your best bet when it comes to prevention.
Is There An Update on the Vaccine?
Whilst the CDC and the WHO haven’t made any mention of a vaccine for novel coronavirus yet, BBC, along with a number of other outlets, have reported that efforts to develop a vaccine are thundering on. However, given the nature and newness of this illness, there’s no guarantee that we will have a vaccine in hand before the end of this outbreak. You can read more about that here and here.
Can I Travel?
According to their website (as of January 27), the WHO has not advised shutting down international travel. They have, however, cautioned that travelers use usual precautions such as seeking medical attention when experiencing any out of the ordinary symptoms they may be experiencing. Mostly, the WHO has issued directives for public health authorities to provide travelers with information, traveler health clinics, and thorough screenings at any and all points of entry.
I Have A Pet. Is That A Problem?
Can Antibiotics Protect Me?
Is Novel Coronavirus Targeting A Certain Age-Group?
A Final Word
Most importantly, do NOT fall victim to discriminatory tropes that tend to run rampant at times like these. We’ve seen an uptick in reports of current racial abuse, with some individuals reminiscing about the discriminatory backlash they experienced 17 years ago during the SARS outbreak (see below). Let’s do better than that, and focus on the facts and how we can play our part in preventing the spread of illness beyond anything else.
No doubt, the proliferation of any global illness is scary. But what’s required of us is NOT mass hysteria. Just be careful handling and consuming raw animal products, practice good hygiene as a force of habit, and STAY INFORMED. Make sure you’re getting your information from a proper source to avoid the spread of any unnecessary information. The WHO’s website is a powerful resource at this time, so be sure to keep an eye on it.
To the families of those who have lost their lives or are currently suffering from this dreaded illness, you are in our thoughts and prayers.