The coronavirus

So, what is the Coronavirus?

The coronavirus is a group of viruses’ that can cause mild infections like the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The latest outbreak in China has brought the coronavirus to everybody’s mind. The current virus is thought to have originated in Wuhan City in China.

Is it time to panic?

No, just be sensible and listen out for the latest advice coming from the NHS and other government bodies. I have included some advice and information below.

How is it Spread?

The exact method has not been confirmed, but other coronaviruses have been found to be spread by physical touch, respiratory transmissions such as coughing and sneezing and also found in the blood and faeces.

Unfortunately, it is thought that this outbreak can be spread by people who do not appear to show any symptoms.

Face masks offer some protection as do gloves, but the virus may also enter other mucous membranes such as the eyes.

Situations that cause people to come into close contact may also be areas where the virus is spread more rapidly. This could be in a bus, on an aeroplane, at a concert etc.

How can we prevent the spread of the virus?

Handwashing is one of the best methods of preventing the spread of the virus. Especially after handling animals (dead or alive) or coughing or sneezing.

Also, by making sure that you thoroughly cook any meat products before eating them.

Using paper tissues once and disposing of them.

Covering your mouth when coughing.

If you have just travelled back from a country that is known to have the virus, and you feel unwell, contact your GP surgery, by telephone in the first instance and explain to them that you have been in a country where the coronavirus is active.

How does the virus get its name?

There are a number of names for the virus, but the recognised ones relate to its source, Wuhan City (W) and the fact that the virus is a coronavirus (CoV). There may also be a letter N for novel, indicating a new virus. Hence the technical name for the virus is WN-CoV.

So why is it called a Coronavirus?

Viruses come in all sorts of size and shapes. The coronavirus gets its name from its circular shape with a crown-like structure.

Where did it start this time around?

The virus is believed to have started in an animal, in an open market in Wuhan. These markets have both live and dead animals for sale as food. The virus spreading from an animal to a human. And now it is believed to spread from human to human as there is evidence of patients who had no connection with the open food markets.

Does the virus get stronger as it passes from one host to another?

The virus has already caused a number of deaths. There is a chance that the virus could get stronger as it passes from one host (animal or human) to another host. However, there is also the possibility that the virus may get weaker during this period.

What is the treatment for the virus?

There is currently no medication or vaccine to treat the virus. Vaccines can take months to years to develop.

However, it is advisable that patients are up to date with their immunisations, especially the flu jab. This is even more important for at-risk groups such as the elderly and immunocompromised.

What are the symptoms?

Usually, these are cold type symptoms. Respiratory problems like coughing, shortness of breath. It can lead to other infections like pneumonia. Depending on the strain one could also get kidney failure and death. At the time of writing, China has 100 deaths from the virus.

There are no reported deaths outside Mainland China as I write this and hopefully, the virus will be contained and not develop into a pandemic. On a positive note, there is a lot of co-operation between the various world health organisations on how best to tackle this latest outbreak.

If you are travelling abroad, pop into our Travel Clinic and discuss how we can help you stay safe.

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