Coronavirus: All you need to know about symptoms and risks

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  • March 5, 2020
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COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

Symptoms range from a mild cough to pneumonia. Some people recover easily, others may get very sick very quickly. There is evidence that it spreads from person to person. Good hygiene can prevent infection.

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can make humans and animals sick. They cause illnesses that can range from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Countries around the world are stepping up efforts to tackle a new coronavirus that originated in China’s Wuhan city.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in China.

Other coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

How it spreads?


Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

There is evidence that the virus spreads from person-to-person.

The virus is most likely spread through:

  • close contact with an infectious person
  • contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze
  • touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables) that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person, and then touching your mouth or face.


Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly. People with coronavirus may experience:

  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue
  • shortness of breath

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.


Surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others. If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask as there is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public.

Everyone should practise good hygiene to protect against infections. Good hygiene includes:

  • washing your hands often with soap and water
  • using a tissue and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • avoiding close contact with others, such as touching.

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.


There is no treatment for coronavirus, but medical care can treat most of the symptoms. Antibiotics do not work on viruses.

If you have been diagnosed with coronavirus, isolate yourself in your home.

How to isolate yourself

Do not go to public places, such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university. If possible, ask other people to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door.

Only people who usually live with you should be in your home. Do not let in visitors.

You do not need to wear a mask in your home.

If you need to leave home to seek medical attention, wear a surgical mask (if you have one) to protect others.

In the absence of a Coronavirus vaccine, governments and businesses worldwide have taken steps to stem the spread of the virus. This includes the United States, which suspended non-Americans travelling from China from entering the country and issued a mandatory 14-day quarantine for any American arriving from China. An additional 71 countries have implemented travel restrictions to and from China.

Source: US Center for Disease Control(USDC)

In December 2019, there was a cluster of pneumonia cases in China. Investigations found that it was caused by a previously unknown virus, now named the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. In this article we’ll take a quick look at what is currently known about the virus. Keep in mind this is a new virus, and what’s known about the virus now might change in the future. Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses; they consist of a core of genetic material surrounded by an envelope of proteins spikes. This gives it the appearance of a crown. Crown in Latin is called ‘Corona’ and that’s how these viruses get their name. There are different types of coronaviruses that causes respiratory and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms. Respiratory symptoms can range from the common cold to pneumonia and in most people the symptoms tend to be mild. However, there are some types of coronaviruses that can cause severe disease, these include SARS – Coronavirus, identified in China 2003, and MERS – Coronavirus, that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

The 2019 Coronavirus was first identified in China 2019. It initially occurred in a group of people with pneumonia, who’d been associated with seafood and animal markets in Wuhan. The disease has since spread from the sick to others including family members and healthcare staff. There are many cases at present and has spread within China and other countries. So, where did the virus come from? It’s known that the coronaviruses circulate in a range of animals. Sometimes these viruses can make the jump from animals to humans. This is called a spillover and could be due to a range of factors, such as mutations in the virus or increased between humans and animals. For example, MERS from Camels and SARS from civet cats. The animal reservoir of the 2019 coronavirus is not known yet. How is it transmitted? The exact dynamic of how the virus is transmitted is yet to be determined, in general respiratory is usually transmitted through droplets created when an infected person coughs or sneezes or through something that has been contaminated with the virus. People most at risk of infection from a novel coronavirus are those in close contact with animals, such as animal workers and those who are caring for people who are infected with the virus, such as family members or healthcare workers. So. How does the disease present?

(Symptoms) Well, from what is known so far there could be a number of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. There can be fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases there’s been pneumonia, kidney failure and death. The mortality rate is not known yet. How can we tell if someone is infected? (Diagnosis) The infection can be diagnosed with a test known as PCR or Polymerase Chain Reaction. This test identifies the virus based off its genetic fingerprint. There’s currently no known medication for the virus and treatment is supportive care. There is currently no vaccine to protect from the virus. Treatments and vaccines are in development. How do we prevent transmission of the virus? This new virus currently has a limited geographic spread, however there are a number of standard hygiene practices that have been recommended to protect against infection and further spread. These include covering your mouth and nose with a medical mask, tissue or flexed elbow. Avoid close contact with those who are unwell. The appropriate use of masks and personal protective equipment, especially in the health care setting, washing hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. Actions that can be taken to prevent infection from an animal source include: Avoiding unnecessary contact with animals, washing hands after contact with animals or animal products and ensuring animal products are cooked thoroughly before they’re consumed. It’s important to stay home if you’re feeling unwell, but if you have a fever, cough or difficulty of breathing seek medical care early and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.

How deadly is it?

With more than 3,000 recorded deaths, the number of fatalities from this new coronavirus has surpassed the toll of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, which also originated in China.

SARS killed about 9 percent of those it infected – nearly 800 people worldwide and more than 300 in China alone. MERS, which did not spread as widely, was more deadly, killing one-third of those it infected.

While the new coronavirus is more widespread in China than SARS in terms of case numbers, the mortality rate remains considerably lower at approximately 2 percent, according to the WHO.

What is being done to stop it from spreading?

Scientists around the globe are racing to develop a vaccine but have warned that one is unlikely to be available for mass distribution before 2021.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have effectively sealed off Wuhan and placed restrictions on travel to and from several other cities, affecting some 60 million people.

Many international airlines have cancelled flights to China. Some countries have banned Chinese nationals from entering their territories and several more have evacuated their citizens from Wuhan.

Is this a global emergency?

The outbreak now constitutes a global health emergency, the WHO said on January 30. The decision to sound the top-level alarm was made after the first cases of human-to-human transmission outside China were confirmed. The international health alert is a call to countries around the world to coordinate their response under the guidance of the United Nations health agency.

The new coronavirus has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization, as the outbreak continues to spread outside China.




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