Since the initial outbreak of the virus in the city of Wuhan in December 2019, the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has spread rapidly.
The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is from the coronavirus family that contains SARS, MERS and some common colds.
As of 29 January, 5,974 cases of infected individuals had been recorded in China, with 132 deaths. It is believed by some experts that the actual numbers are 10 to 12 times the number of recorded cases. A realtime map showing the number of confirmed cases and deaths can be viewed here.
Research on 606 patients reveals that symptoms start with a fever (80% of cases) with temperatures of 39 to 40 degrees. A frontal headache is common (60% of cases) and a dry cough appears after 1 day. The disease lasts around 18 days and some sources indicate that the mortality rate is around 2%, but it is too soon to be certain of this percentage.
The incubation period is typically 7 to 10 days, but can be anywhere between 2 and 14 days. During this time there are no symptoms, but it is highly likely the patient is infectious. This reduces the effectiveness of scanning people at airports.
60% of infection is through air borne transmission, 20% by touching a contaminated surface and 20% by touching eyes, nose or mouth. The virus can survive for four hours in normal conditions.
Those at higher risk include men, those over 55, smokers (current and former), diabetics, people with kidney disease or weak immune systems, pregnant women and small children.
What can be done?
Current advice includes not travelling to China, including Hong Kong and Macao, washing hands frequently – hand sanitisers help, increasing ventilation and reducing humidity in work spaces – the virus is neutralised faster in a dry environment, but keep the humidity of your bedroom above 40% to increase the protection of your lungs. And, strengthen your immune system. This means avoiding fatigue, stress and illness.
Wearing masks can help but training and strict compliance is required for this to be effective.
Sneezing into your hands should be avoided. If you do, wash your hands before touching anything. Instead, sneeze into your elbow.
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment against the virus. Only the symptoms can be treated, specifically through respiratory support in intensive care units.
Websites offering objective information on the Coronavirus are: the World Health organisation (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the linked pages have information specific to the virus.