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What Is the Coronavirus?

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The health headline dominating this month has been the coronavirus. Like a supervillain, this virus appeared out of nowhere and has made its presence felt. As of January 30, it has caused a total of 8100 infections and 170 deaths in China, causing the WHO to declare it a global health emergency. 

How did the coronavirus begin and what is this strange virus that is causing so much havoc around the world? Let’s explore.

Firstly it should be noted that worldwide epidemics are not uncommon. Here is a brief list of epidemics that have occurred over the past century. for more details see this outline by CNN

  • 2016 – Zika Virus
  • 2014 – Ebola 
  • 2009 – H1N1 Swine Flu
  • 2003 – SARS 
  • 1952 – Polio
  • 1918 – Spanish Flu

The Spanish Flu of 1918 was incredibly devastating, infecting nearly 500 million people and killing between 30 – 50 million people worldwide. It was the first H1N1 influenza pandemic, that could spread easily with a cough or a sneeze. 

Nearly 100 years later we are now on the cusp of a new outbreak. The first human coronavirus infection appeared in Wuhan in early December 2019. The origins of this virus is  believed to have emerged from a local animal market. The coronavirus is zoonotic, meaning it transmittable from animals to humans. 

The coronavirus was discovered after the local population was developing pneumonia like symptoms, and were not responding to existing vaccines and treatments. People who develop the disease have symptoms of fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. 

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What makes coronavirus particularly difficult to control is the probability of the virus to spread during its incubation period. The incubation period is the time between infection and when symptoms first begin to emerge. However as of now the CDC has stated that they ‘don’t have any evidence of a patient being infectious prior to symptom onset’. Each case, if left unchecked, is estimated to cause four more infections. This number is called the basic reproduction number.

Unfortunately, as or now there are vaccines available for the coronavirus, though work has begun on developing one. It is estimated that a new vaccine may be in production by May of 2020, and available for human testing in 2021.

The World Health Organization is offering the following advice to the public to help prevent infection and transmission of coronavirus:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough;
  • If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider;
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

Please note, this article is provided for informational purposes only. For more information on coronavirus visit the following links or call 1-866-797-0000 for medical advice. 

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