Everything you must know
The new coronavirus (Covid-19) is rampaging throughout the world. As of April 16, 2020, more than two million people have been infected and over 134,000 deaths have been recorded.
Although the outbreak started in China, the majority of cases and fatalities are now outside the country with United States being the epicenter of the pandemic.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in mammals and birds. Seven, including the new virus, have made the jump to humans, but most just cause cold-like symptoms.
Two other coronaviruses – Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) – are much more severe, having killed more than 1,500 people.
The new virus, officially called COVID-19, is also dangerous. Till now, around 20 per cent of confirmed cases have been classed as severe or critical.
The average fatality rate of COVID-19 is estimated to be in the range of 3 to 6 percent. The rate is relatively low compared to other deadly virus outbreaks in recent memory. Ebola, which killed over 11,000 people in West Africa in 2014, has had a fatality rate between 25 to 90 percent. SARS and MERS have mortality rates of around 10 percent and 30 percent, respectively. But because the coronavirus spreads widely and quicly, it can overwhelm local health systems.
How did the outbreak start?
The source of the coronavirus is believed to be the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan which sold both dead and live animals.
Such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans because hygiene standards are difficult to maintain if live animals are being kept and butchered on site.
The animal source of the latest outbreak has not yet been identified, but the original host is thought to be bats. Bats were not sold at the Wuhan market but may have infected live chickens or other animals sold there. Bats are host to a wide range of zoonotic viruses including Ebola, HIV and rabies.
How many countries are affected?
The COVID-19 is affecting 210 countries and territories around the world and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess Cruise ship harbored in Yokohama, Japan).
Which countries are most affected?
China, where the outbreak started has 82,341 recorded cases as of April 16. The U.S. is the worst hit country with more than 644,000 recorded cases. Spain with 180,000 recorded cases, Italy 165,000, France 147,000, Germany 134,000 and United Kingdom 98,000 are among the other countries most affected by the virus. Pakistan despite its limited testing capacity has recorded more than 6,297 cases and 177 deaths by April 16. Punjab is the worst hit province in the country with more than 3,000 recorded cases.
What are the symptoms?
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Symptoms are thought to appear between two and 10 days after contracting the virus, but it may be up to 24 days.
How to protect yourself?
This is a stressful time and people want to know what they can do right now to protect themselves and their families. To help prevent the spread of germs and infection the following measures may be adopted:
• Stay at home if you can and avoid gatherings of more than ten people.
• Practice social distancing by keeping a distance of about six feet from others.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, coughing or sneezing.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; throw used tissues in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, desks, laptops, phones, sinks, toilets and faucets.
• If surfaces are dirty, clean them – use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
• Wear a facemask if you are sick. You should wear a facemask when you are around other people.
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