The new flu-like coronavirus that has so far killed six people in China and infected more than 300 likely started in an animal and spread to humans, according to an expert who was among the first to decode its cousin SARS.
“What we know is it causes pneumonia and then doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment, which is not surprising, but then in terms of mortality, SARS kills 10 percent of the individuals,” said Leo Poon, a virologist at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, CNN reported.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses running the gamut from the common cold to severe diseases including SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, and Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, according to the World Health Organization.
The SARS epidemic which infected more than 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 triggered mass panic as it spread across more than two dozen countries after starting in China in late 2002.
What are the symptoms?
The infected develop upper respiratory symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat and sometimes a fever that can last a few days.
But for those with weakened immune systems, the elderly and the very young, the virus may trigger more serious illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis.
On Dec. 31, WHO officials in China were informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause that were detected in the central city of Wuhan, where a “novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)” was identified on Jan. 7, the agency said.
“Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties,” according to WHO. “In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.”
How does coronavirus spread?
In rare cases, coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans. Coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS can spread from human contact with animals. SARS was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS from camels to humans.
On Monday, officials confirmed that the new coronavirus can be transmitted between humans which often happens when someone comes into contact with the infected person’s secretions.
The virus also can also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How is it treated? Is there a vaccine?
There is no specific treatment for the illness, but those infected may get relief by taking pain or fever medications, drinking plenty of fluids and getting lots of rest.
There also is no vaccine to protect against this family of viruses, but people may be able to reduce their risk of infection by avoiding those who are sick, washing their hands often, and avoiding touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
On Friday, US health officials began “enhanced health screenings” at three US airports New York’s JFK, as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles — to detect travelers sickened by the coronavirus arriving from Wuhan.
Source: New York Post