WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS AND HOW DID IT START?
The coronavirus is a bunch of viruses found in animals, which can be spread to humans. Many animals are able to withstand the virus in their bodies without experiencing much harm, but the same cannot be said for humans.
There are also many types of coronaviruses previously discovered in animals which have not infected humans.
The two rare cases of animals infecting humans with a type of coronavirus occurred back in 2002 (SARS-CoV by Civet Cats in China) and 2012 (MERS-CoV by dromedary camels in Saudi Arabia).
The coronavirus currently spreading among humans is a new type which has not been previously been discovered yet. This new coronavirus is given the label of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
The animal source of 2019-nCoV has not yet been identified with certain, but recent research are linking the original host of the virus to bats. Bats have known to have the ability to withstand dangerous viruses, yet still be a carrier.
The first reported case of the coronavirus was on 31st December 2019 in Wuhan, China.
Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market. Image sourced from here.
Many believe the starting point for this virus started from the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market located in Wuhan. This wet market is stock to many live and dead animals. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, “Poorly regulated, live-animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife trade offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spillover from wildlife hosts into the human population.”
When the market shut down for inspections after the news of the coronavirus, 33 out of 585 animal samples were tested to be positive for the coronavirus.
SIGNS OF CORONAVIRUS AND HOW TO AVOID GETTING AFFECTED
Those infected with 2019-nCoV will have symptoms similar to a common cold.
More severe cases can have symptoms similar to respiratory diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). While the symptoms are similar, the virus is not the same as what causes MERS or SARS.
Common symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough, sore throat, and breathing difficulties.
The virus can be transmitted from infected animals and infected humans through close contact. It can take up to 14 days before on can find out if they have been infected.
For infected animals, the most straight-forward method of infection is by eating their flesh. Exposure to their urine, feces or saliva can also cause the infection to spread to humans.
For infected humans, the infection is mostly spread through airway passages. Those living in areas where the infection in spreading have greater chances of getting infected.
To take care of your health and others around you:
- frequently wash your hands with soap or alcohol-based hand sanitiser,
- maintain a distance of at least 1 meter from other people (especially those coughing or sneezing),
- avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as to not contaminate your body,
- make sure to thoroughly cook all meat and eggs before consuming,
- seek medical advice immediately if you, or those you know, are developing similar symptoms mentioned above.
While wearing a mask may help reduce the chances of getting infected, it is not 100% foolproof. It is recommended that you only use the mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
For more information, visit the World Health Organisation (WHO) here.