According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The current outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019 has so far claimed more than 200 lives. As at the morning of Friday, January 31st 2020, China reported 9,692 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia, with 213 deaths.
A “novel coronavirus (nCoV)” is a new strain of virus that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are generally zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. For example, detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. There are several known coronaviruses circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Common signs of infection in humans include fever and respiratory symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties). In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
WHO’s standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:
- 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 fever and cough;
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care 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.