Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, the viruses cause respiratory infections which are typically mild including the common cold but rarer forms like SARS and MERS can be lethal. In cows and pigs, they may cause diarrhoea, while in chickens they can cause an upper respiratory disease. There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs that are universally approved for prevention or treatment. The above primer is taken from wikipedia. If you need more information about the current novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, you can visit America’s CDC or from China’s CDC.
At first glance, we do see a high fatality rate for this Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Upon closer scrutiny, it seems the majority of fatalities are of the higher age groups who might have weaker immunity or pre-existing medical ailments. If you are younger or healthier, this does not mean that you can ignore or treat this coronavirus lightly. The symptoms appear to range in severity. While some individuals do suffer from mild flu symptoms, others have contracted viral pneumonia, which is resistant to antibiotics and therefore difficult to treat. Thus, it is better to be vigilant and take the necessary precautions.
A normal doctor or general practitioner will not have the exceptional ability to distinguish an individual suffering from the Coronavirus or the common cough and cold. Until medical test kits are mass produced for the healthcare establishments, confirmatory laboratory tests are needed. This needs specialized equipment and time. If you suspect yourself as having the Coronavirus, please isolate or quarantine yourself at your residence and call the medical professionals for the next course of action.
Another reason for the higher fatality is the fact that the hospitals or public health services are overwhelmed. In relation to the huge numbers of infection, they do not have the adequate medical facilities and supplies to diagnose and treat the patients suffering from the Coronavirus. Hence, the Chinese mainland authorities are going at breakneck speed to build specialized medical hospitals for treating such infectious diseases. They have done it before during the SARS crisis and we do think they have the ability to scale this up to provide the facilities needed to tend to the infected.
Health advice for the general public:
- Do not travel to Hubei Province where community transmission of novel Coronavirus is occurring. If it is unavoidable to travel to Hubei, put on a surgical mask and continue to do so until 14 days after returning, and quarantine for 14 days as far as possible. For members of the public returning from other parts of China, they are advised to stay home for 14 days upon their return as far as possible. Those who need to go out should wear a surgical mask.
- Avoid close contact with persons with fever or respiratory symptoms in countries/areas with possible community transmission of novel coronavirus infection. If it is unavoidable to come into contact with them, put on a surgical mask and continue to do so until 14 days after returning.
- Avoid touching animals (including game), poultry / birds or their droppings. Avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms. Do not consume game meat and do not patronise food premises where game meat is served.
- Maintain good personal hygiene
(i) Wear a surgical mask when taking public transport or staying in crowded places. It is important to wear a mask properly, including hand hygiene before wearing and after removing a mask.
(ii)Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.Keep hands clean at all times. Perform hand hygiene frequently, especially before touching your eyes, mouth or nose, before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, after touching public installations such as escalator handrails, elevator control panels or door knobs, or when hands are contaminated by respiratory secretion after coughing or sneezing.
(iii) Wash hands with liquid soap and water, and rub for at least 20 seconds. Then rinse with water and dry with a disposable paper towel.
(iv) If hand washing facilities are not available, or when hands are not visibly soiled, performing hand hygiene with 70 to 80% alcohol-based handrub is an effective alternative.
(v) Cover your nose and mouth with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing. Do not spit or litter. Use tissue paper to hold your spit. Dispose of the soiled tissues into a lidded rubbish bin, and then wash hands thoroughly.