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Coronavirus: Why the panic?

Since December 2019, we’ve seen chaos among the headlines with nonstop updates about the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) which has been spreading at a rapid rate.  As I write this now, the numbers are continuing to increase with the toll having risen to 8 so far, including the closure of a GP centre in Brighton (I wonder how many the total will be once I’ve finished this blog).

We’ve seen the world swindle into a pit of panic, as the ignorance of the general public creates a hostile environment, unfortunately not for the virus, but towards one another.  People have thrown accusations around looking for someone to blame for this, in some people’s mind, near-apocalyptic virus.

Can we blame them? We’ve seen this before with the SARS outbreak, the Ebola virus, even Swine flu sent the UK public into absolute turmoil. What did they all have in common? We didn’t see them coming at such a rapid rate.

There’s been a lot of comparison to the SARS outbreak back in 2002/03, which is similarly thought to be a strain of coronavirus as it infects humans in a similar way.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses aren’t unknown to healthcare professionals. Typically, coronaviruses host in animals and are rarely transmitted through to humans. However, they have been responsible for several devastating diseases in humans, symptoms can vary from a common cold to respiratory infections. Currently, there are 7 known coronaviruses that can infect humans.

Firstly, we must understand the virus; it looks for vulnerable cells to inject their genetic material and then uses their spikey structured proteins to ‘recognise and latch onto’ specific cells in the body. This process then results in a merger of the virus with the infected cell which then hijacks the cell’s genetic material, making it distribute new viruses.

The symptoms of 2019 novel coronavirus:

  • Pneumonia
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

In rare cases:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Death

Whilst surgical masks cannot prevent the virus’ particles from spreading, simple practices such as washing your hands regularly and avoiding hand to mouth contact can help prevent the virus spreading. Generally, viruses can’t live outside a human host for more than a few hours, however this means a surface will remain contaminated for a short period of time, enough for someone to get infected.

Why is it so scary?

The reason it’s causing global panic is not from the symptoms but predominantly, more the mystery of how the disease emerged from an animal disease to infecting humans.

But the transmission rate at which it’s spread is what is causing alarming concern, unlike Ebola and Swine flu it is believed to be airborne, making it more prone to spreading.

On top of not being able to restrict the rate the disease spreads, there is also no known cure for coronaviruses, including SARS.

But people aren’t fussing about SARS anymore, despite it still being an active coronavirus with no known cure.

There are however several known existing antiviral medications which have potential in fighting against coronaviruses. A candidate vaccine was developed for SARS during the outbreak in the early 2000’s but wasn’t significant enough to bring to market.

Once there is a fully developed vaccine, health and medical professionals will need to understand how the outbreak occurred, before distributing on a global scale. 

Myth Buster

With the disease spreading rapidly, rumours are spreading at double the rate. Here are a few of my favourite non-facts about the virus which are just nonsense;

  • A face mask will protect me
  • Ordering products from China will infect me
  • The 2019 novel virus is the deadliest disease
  • Hand dryers kill coronavirus
  • Vaccines against pneumonia will protect me from coronavirus

What to do if you suspect you have the novel-coronavirus?

There is little reason for you to be concerned if you live in the UK and have not travelled recently to Asia. As part of the government’s response they have issued clinical guidance for frontline staff as how to diagnose the virus.  If you’ve travelled from Wuhan, China, stay at home for 14 days, avoiding public places and transport to contain the spreading. If you do suspect having novel-coronavirus, call 111 to seek advice. To diagnose the virus clinicians will take samples from the throat and nose which will be transported to PHE Colindale for confirmation that same day.

For more advice how you can take protective measures against the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, click here

References

CDC

GOV

Live Science

NHS

WHO

Worthing Herald

 

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