Note: There is an ongoing publication of data regarding the 2019-nCoV outbreak. This article will be updated as more data becomes available.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of viruses found in animals and humans. Human coronaviruses are common. Sometimes an animal coronavirus can change and infects people and becomes a human coronavirus. To date, seven different human coronaviruses have been identified. Human coronaviruses often cause mild to moderate illness in people worldwide, such as common cold. Two newer human coronaviruses, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)-CoV and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-CoV, have been known to frequently cause severe illness. The MERS-CoV outbreak was in 2012 and the SARS-CoV outbreak was in 2003. On 31st December 2019, the current respiratory outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first reported from Wuhan, China.
The source and spread of the 2019-nCoV has not been identified yet. However, it seems that the 2019-nCoV can be transmitted from person to person, usually after close contact with an infected patient, such as when the infected person coughs or sneezes. It is also thought that the 2019-nCoV spreads from infected animals to people through contact. At present, there is no evidence that companion animals, such as dogs and cats, can be infected with the 2019-nCoV. Preliminary results show that the 2019-nCoV may survive on surfaces for a few hours. Therefore, it is safe to receive letters and objects from China or other countries, where an outbreak has been reported. Simple disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces.
People with 2019-nCoV infection, the flu or a common cold develop respiratory symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, cough and runny nose. Even though the symptoms are alike, they are caused by different viruses. The confirmation of which virus causes the symptoms is done by laboratory tests. If people have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China, they should practice good respiratory and hand hygiene and stay home until they have recovered, if possible.
Apart from the above-mentioned symptoms, infection with the 2019-nCoV can become more severe and lead to pneumonia, breathing difficulties or death. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, are more susceptible to becoming severely ill to the virus. People, who have cough, fever and difficulty breathing, should seek medical care early.
Laboratory tests have been developed to confirm if someone is 2019-nCoV infected.
To date, there is no specific treatment or vaccine to treat or prevent the 2019-nCoV. Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials. However, those infected with the 2019-nCoV should receive care so that their symptoms are relieved and treated. To protect yourself from being infected with viral respiratory infections, including the 2019-nCoV, and others from getting sick, it is important to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene, and safe food practices and avoid close contact, when possible, to people showing symptoms of respiratory illnesses, such as coughing and sneezing. Regarding good respiratory hygiene, cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or use a tissue, and discard the tissue immediately into a closed bin. Clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub after coughing or sneezing and when caring for the sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid close contact with others when you are experiencing cough and fever. Use a mask only if you have respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or sneezing, have suspected 2019-nCoV infection or take care of someone, who has a suspected 2019-nCoV infection. The proper way of putting a mask is the following:
Regarding good hand hygiene, wash your hands regularly with soap and water or rub your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Also, you should wash your hands between handling raw and cooked food.