Coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19, is the new buzzword in the world’s media and it is now almost impossible to avoid hearing about it. The downside of this is that there is a noticeable panic around the illnesses with many people unsure what to do to avoid it and convinced they may die at any second. Hotels, airlines, and B&Bs are noticing a steep decline in custom along with Chinese eateries, and even pet lovers are staring at their animals suspiciously.
Here we breakdown all you need to know about the sickness, and importantly offer information on how to avoid it, so you can decide if you should actually be cancelling that all-important family holiday.
Deadlier than flu?
A lot of statistics are currently being thrown around which seem to indicate that Coronavirus is less serious than common influenza, something researchers are saying is extremely dangerous.
According to the South African National Department of Health, the flu kills between 6 000 and 11 000 South Africans every year, with roughly 50% of those deaths being among the elderly, and another 30% in HIV-infected people. This is from roughly 1-million cases each year. These numbers align with the international figures that put death from influenza at about 0.1% of all cases.
WHO expert, Bruce Aylward, who led an international mission to China to learn about the Coronavirus and the country’s response, has explained that while initial estimates were that 2% of all sufferers of Covid-19 would die, further testing puts the number at roughly a 1% fatality rate. This makes Covid-19 about 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu.
Further exacerbating this problem is the fact that many people who get Covid-19 may not even present with symptoms, meaning they are more likely to come in contact with others and the infection rate may be higher. Early research shows the average person with flu infects 1.3 other people. With Coronavirus that number goes up to 2.2. In short, the threat is real.
Most people won’t even know
While it sounds absolutely devastating, most people won’t even know they have contracted Coronavirus or will only have mild symptoms (dry cough, high temperature) and will recover. The problem is, however, that the virus does make some people seriously ill with symptoms of pneumonia and trouble breathing. For a small number this can be even worse and lead to severe lung issues, which can kill them.
Only the elderly?
While it’s very clear that the elderly, asthmatic and immunocompromised stand a much higher chance of dying when contracting Covid-19 this does not mean young people should not take precautions. The illness still has a higher chance of leading to serious respiratory symptoms than seasonal flu and young people who have jobs that bring them into contact with a high number of people still stand a far greater chance of contracting the illness than flu.
Health workers in particular need to be careful while WHO recommends that teachers, retailers, airport staff and others who may meet a high number of people a day all take extra precautions to avoid transmission.
“The actions that young, healthy people take, including reporting symptoms and following quarantine instructions, will have an important role in protecting the most vulnerable in society and in shaping the overall trajectory of the outbreak,” explain health journalists at the Guardian.
There are actually two strains
Chinese scientists at the source have been hard at work trying to isolate the illness in order to understand it, and secure a vaccination. Thus far the genetic analysis of 103 samples of the virus, taken from patients in Wuhan and other cities, suggests that early on two main strains emerged, designated L and S. The S strain has been found to be the ancestral strain while the L strain is a mutation. Despite this 70% of all cases are from the L strain. This suggests that the L strain is more aggressive, and may be either transmitted more easily or replicates faster within the body.
You won’t get it from your pets
Amidst any panic it is not uncommon for bizarre theories to begin circulating, and no matter how strange these theories may seem there are always some who believe them and spread them on. Chinese restaurants, for example, have taken a huge hit worldwide in sales despite the fact that there is absolutely no way to get Coronavirus from the food of a particular nationality.
Another theory is that Coronavirus can be transmitted to pets who would then, in turn, give the sickness to their owners.
“At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus,” WHO said on its website, adding that, “However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.”
Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent
While wearing a surgical face mask seems to have become popular around the world, with many stores running out of supply, there is no evidence that wearing one can prevent Coronavirus. This is because the masks are generally too loose, don’t cover the eyes and can’t be worn for long periods.
Masks are however considered crucial for health and social care workers looking after patients and are also recommended for family members who need to care for someone who is ill, so hoarding masks can in fact deny them to the people who actually need them.
Simply put, it’s not necessary for the average person in the street to wear a face mask, as it does not have any noticeable impact on the spread of the disease. What does work is simple, and proper hand-washing.
Washing your hands thoroughly, front and back, and right up to the wrists for more than 20 seconds will destroy the virus and make you much less likely to infect others, or indeed yourself. The virus passes easily into the human body from contact so the most common way to get it, is to touch an infected surface, or person, then touch your own face.
Coronavirus is membrane-enclosed and can, therefore, be destroyed by alcohol-based handwashes, but again stockpiling this substance is not necessary. Washing with soap and water is just as valuable as using an expensive hand-wash. Everyone washing their hands thoroughly and regularly will be enough to ensure our elderly and sick don’t have to die.