The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency over a new coronavirus that has killed at least 427 people in China.
More than 20,400 cases have been reported worldwide including Malaysia. There 10 reported cases in Malaysia and one of them is a 41-year-old man from Selangor.
What is Coronavirus?
It is a virus with a distinct pedal-shaped projection on the corona. The virus is common in birds and mammals.
Referring to WHO website, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Coronovires are zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted to humans. The Wuhan virus is the seventh coronavirus that can infect humans, affecting the respiratory system.
Some of the infections are mild while others such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that were first isolated in 2003 and 2012, respectively, are much more dangerous.
Mammals and birds are the natural hosts (reservoirs) of coronaviruses. They carry the viruses in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts without showing signs of infection.
Often, these viruses have an intermediate host before they can infect humans. We know that the natural and intermediate hosts of SARS-CoV are bats and civet cats, while the ones for MERS-CoV are bats and camels.
A novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7 and named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans.
What are the symptoms?
According to the WHO, signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and even death.
The incubation period of the coronavirus remains unknown. Some sources say it could be between 10 and 14 days.
What We Can Do?
No vaccine is available against the virus. Antibiotics will not work since the disease is caused by a virus. What we can do is take precautions commonly practiced to prevent respiratory flu-like illness.
Drink plenty of water, stay healthy and practice good personal hygiene by washing or disinfecting your hands regularly, especially after touching surface or fomites.
Wear a surgical mask and avoid being in close contact with people who are from infected areas.