The recent outbreak of the corona virus has everyone up in arms about public health and safety. But what is the corona virus and where did it come from? Corona viruses are reportedly a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. Seven, including the new virus, have made the jump to humans, but most just cause cold-like symptoms, whereas two other corona viruses- specifically Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) & Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)- are much more severe, killing more than 1,500 people between them since 2002. The new virus, called Covid-19 is just as dangerous. So far the current death rate stands at about 2%, where about 20% of confirmed cases have been classified as severe or critical.
The current corona virus outbreak is believed to originate from a “wet market” in Wuhan, China which sold both dead and live animals, including fish and birds. These markets are at a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans as a result of the difficult-to-maintain hygiene standards because of the densely packed environment and the butchering and keeping of live animals on site. More than 81,000 cases have been confirmed since the outbreak started, and the death toll has reached over 2,700. The majority of cases are in China but the virus has spread to 30 other countries, most recently taking Italy and Europe. According to data from the Chinese authorities, around 80% of the cases are mild while the other 20% require hospitalization.
While the number of cases decreases in China, it rises in the rest of the world. Symptoms of the virus usually include a cough, a high temperature, and shortness of breath, which are similar to other respiratory diseases, including the flu and the common cold. If you have these symptoms, ask yourself, “Have I traveled in the last two weeks to a high risk area such as China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea or Northern Italy? Have I been in contact with someone who has?”
While there’s no vaccine for the virus yet, you can avoid the spread of respiratory diseases easily by avoiding close contact with people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, & mouth, staying home when you are sick, covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing it in the trash, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe, and washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.