Symptoms of coronavirus- What is known about the new virus from China
The pathogen jumped to humans in Wuhan in late December and causes pneumonia that can be fatal in the most severe cases
How did the outbreak begin?
The Chinese authorities notified on December 31, 27 cases of pneumonia of unknown origin, seven of them serious. Those affected were apparently linked to a market in the city of Wuhan, a large metropolis with 11 million inhabitants. The cause of the ailment was identified on January 7 as a new coronavirus. China reported days later that the pathogen could be transmitted from person to person.
What symptoms cause the virus?
The virus infects the respiratory tract and causes symptoms ranging from a mild condition (dry cough, fever …) to acute respiratory failure and life-threatening pneumonia.
How is it spread?
The mechanisms have not been precisely determined, although the most accepted form is through contact and through small drops of saliva that the virus carrier excretes when coughing. Contagion occurs between people who are close, at a distance of approximately one meter maximum.
Are there asymptomatic cases?
It is not yet known exactly, although experts consider it likely, as has happened with other similar viruses.
Is there any treatment?
There is no specific treatment or vaccine, although there are several projects underway to achieve it. Medical assistance focuses on the symptoms and on giving vital support to the patient. Antivirals such as oseltamivir, baloxavir, ribavirin and acyclovir are not effective against the virus. China studies the combined use of lopinavir and ritonavir.
How is it diagnosed?
China shared with the WHO the genetic sequence of the virus on January 12, five days after its identification. This allowed the creation of a specific diagnostic protocol that all member countries have. Without the analyses, it is practically impossible to distinguish it from another type of pneumonia, or even from the flu. The large hospitals have a technology, called PCR, that allows confirming the infection by the virus in a few hours.
What is the evolution of the disease?
The number of people affected has not stopped growing since last December 31 and the trend is still rising both in China and in other countries.
Has the virus been rapid?
Experts emphasize that the high speed of virus spread. The cases registered in China in less than a month – on January 29, more than 6,000 have been exceeded – exceed 5,300 diagnosed with SARS.
What is a coronavirus?
They are an extensive family of viruses that affect humans and various species of animals. So far there were six acquaintances who could make a person sick: four that cause the common cold, that of SARS (also in 2002 in China) and that of MERS (in 2012 in Saudi Arabia). Coronaviruses that only affect some species can undergo mutations that allow them to jump to others and become virulent for humans. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused more than 800 deaths and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) has caused 2,500 confirmed cases and 850 deaths. Research carried out so far indicates that the origin of both is in bats and this is the main hypothesis also in Wuhan.
What lethality has the new Wuhan virus?
Experts point out that the mortality rate of the new pathogen is low, between 2% and 3%, compared to similar viruses, according to the first available data. The SARS virus has attributed to the mortality of between 10% and 18%, and that of the MERS reaches 35% of the patients notified, according to the WHO.
Could the virus mutate and become more virulent?
Although every virus is susceptible to a mutation, since it was located it has remained quite stable, according to the WHO, which warns that it is a scenario that cannot be ruled out.
What measures have been taken?
China has decided to quarantine the city of Wuhan, from which it is not possible to leave or enter since last morning, and more than a dozen nearby towns. In them, the use of masks has become widespread. In total, it has confined more than 46 million people. Airports in the vast majority of Asian countries, as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia, among others, have established control measures to detect travelers with compatible symptoms from the affected areas. Wuhan airport remains practically closed.
What is WHO doing?
The organization has monitored the evolution of the outbreak almost from day one, as it has placed coronaviruses among the threats to cause a future global pandemic. The emergency committee has met twice and, although very divided, has not decided for now to declare an international emergency, although in the last week of January the global threat rating of the virus has changed from “moderate” to “high”.
What does the international emergency declaration imply?
The declaration of a public health emergency of international importance is adopted before an outbreak of a situation “serious, sudden, unusual and unexpected” with health consequences whose impact extends beyond the affected country. The declaration begins the process that makes possible an immediate and coordinated international action. WHO has taken this decision five times: for influenza A in 2009, against polio in 2014, against Ebola in West Africa in 2014, against Zika in 2016 and last July against Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.