In the wake of the worldwide outbreak, experts warn the coronavirus disease could quickly become classified as a pandemic. Here’s what you need to know to keep you and your family safe.
Such a massive part of our business here at ilaya is caring for you and your family. While many of our physicians and staff focus acutely on your reproductive health– we also care for your general health as well. 2019-nCoV, or the Wuhan Coronavirus, is a newly discovered virus that can pose serious health complications for many. While the virus is incredibly serious, with the right information and awareness, there is no need to be frightened.
Your family is always our top priority, and as situations arise that may jeopardize your health, we want to ensure that you have the best and most relatable information and material available. Empowering you to be informed and prepared for what may lie ahead.
What is the Wuhan Coronavirus?
Headlines were rocked in December of 2019 as the mysterious virus began to flex its virulence all over the international hub of Wuhan, China. Infecting thousands and killing hundreds within mere days, the virus soon proved to be much more aggressive than originally thought. With only a trickle of information, tensions ran high as more cases of the novel virus were reported. From that very first case in mid-December 2019 to February 6th, 2020 almost 28,300 cases of the Wuhan Coronavirus were confirmed. Making it incredibly contagious.
But what exactly is the 2019-nCoV?
The Wuhan Coronavirus is a type of virus that causes severe respiratory illness. Resulting in symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can progress to complete respiratory failure and death. However, the virus has a wide range of severity depending on the person it infects. For some, few symptoms are even noticed, while others are severely affected. Making it even more difficult to study, as people with mild symptoms may not seek medical evaluation, despite the fact they can still infect others. Researchers estimate that, on average, every infected person goes on to transmit the disease to 2.6 other people.
While it is a new virus, researchers are still familiar with its form and function. Coronaviruses, like 2019-nCoV, are not unfamiliar territory for many epidemiologists. However, this doesn’t make them any easier to treat or estimate transmission and mortality- just quicker to recognize and develop diagnostic testing for. Coronaviruses generally cause problematic disease in bird species but historically have been known to make the jump into human infectivity.
Diseases like SARS and MERS are also types of coronaviruses that you may have heard of. As these viruses shook the world in 2003 and 2017 respectively, there is still no effective treatment or vaccine for either disease. The Wuhan Coronavirus is similar in this aspect as well. While there is no known treatment or vaccine for the disease, there are effective supportive measures that can be taken for people who contract the disease.
Perhaps the most encouraging bit about being able to look at the patterns of previously seen coronaviruses, is that with efficient control measures and public prevention practices, the spread of these types of viruses can be suppressed.
How Does the Coronavirus Spread?
Like many other types of respiratory viruses, the Wuhan Coronavirus is spread via droplets. This means that the virus is found in things like saliva and mucus, similar to the flu. A report from the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that active virus has been found in stool samples as well as respiratory droplets. So what does this all mean for you?
Anytime someone coughs or sneezes, tiny bits of mucus and saliva are released into the air. These are known as respiratory droplets. If these droplets contain the virus, and then come in contact with your own mucous membranes (lining of the nose, into your mouth or lungs), then you have a chance of getting the virus yourself.
Since the virus is also found in stool, that means that surfaces may be contaminated as well. So should someone do a less than stellar job of washing their hands and then touch a shared surface, you can also become infected in this way. This happens when tiny particles are left behind and are then picked up when you touch that shared surface. These particles can get transferred to your mucous membranes when you rub your eyes or touch your nose or mouth with a bare, unwashed hand.
What Are Potential Complications of Contracting the Virus?
As mentioned above, some people experience such mild symptoms from the virus, that they don’t even go into hospital. While others, the disease can prove quickly fatal. In a recent interview Professor Neil Ferguson, with the Imperial College of London, discusses why the severity of the disease and who it is likely to affect is still difficult to predict at this time. In fact, in the video, Professor Ferguson goes on to say that it’s because of this wide range of symptoms that Wuhan Coronavirus may be more dangerous than other coronaviruses like SARS.
So in some ways, the most lethal complication of the disease is not even knowing you have it, allowing infected people to spread the disease to others without their knowledge. Physical symptoms of the disease generally mimic those of the flu:
- Runny nose
- Joint pain
- Respiratory Problems (mild to severe)
In the most severe cases, patients may experience things like
- Coughing up blood
- Respiratory failure
- Kidney failure
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
- Cardiac problems
- Weakened immune system
How is the Wuhan Coronavirus Treated?
Because there is no vaccine for the disease, the only way to treat 2019-nCoV is by treating the symptoms as they arise. Using fluid replacement to keep patients from becoming dehydrated. Sometimes, expectorants are used to help encourage coughing fluid out of the lungs, and steroids to decrease swelling in the airways.
Antipyretics, like paracetamol and ibuprofen, are used to treat fevers and body aches. Supplemental oxygen is given when levels dip too low on normal air. If the respiratory problems become severe, patients may be placed on a machine called a ventilator, which helps force air into the lungs and assists a patient who is having difficulty breathing on their own.
But perhaps the best treatment for this disease is prevention and the practice of personal precautions.
What Precautions Should You Take to Protect Yourself and Your Family?
The best precautions that you and your family can take are actually pretty simple. In fact, many of these precautions should be regularly practiced by everyone all the time! Reducing the risk of contracting any type of respiratory illness.
Wash Your Hands Regularly
Wash, wash, wash! Yes, it’s true, simply washing your hands with soap and water regularly can help to greatly reduce your risk of contracting any number of diseases! So remember to wash often, and wash well.
Avoid Touching Your Face
Try hard not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes unless you have just washed your hands. If you absolutely must rub your face, try using the back of your hand or your wrist to scratch that itch until you have access to hand washing or sanitizing.
Reduce Your Contact with Ill Persons
While it’s hard not to be there for loved ones and friends when they feel unwell, make an effort to limit your exposure to anyone who might have a respiratory illness. Encourage them to see their doctor and maybe switch to video chat for a few weeks.
Stay Home When You Feel Unwell
If you or anyone in your family is feeling unwell- STAY HOME! Yes, this means staying home from school or work when you feel poorly. Especially if you are running a fever, or have a nasty cough.
Always cover your coughs and sneezes- but wait! Don’t use that hand! Cover coughs and sneezes by putting your face into your inner elbow and facing downward. This keeps your hands from getting covered in germs (which can then be transmitted to shared surfaces), and it also directs any droplets towards the ground and not at others.
Whether you, a family member, or a friend are feeling unwell, or maybe just because it’s flu season- pay close attention to regularly cleaning shared surfaces. Things like doorknobs, bathrooms, and desks require special attention during these times.
See Your Doctor
If you experience any of the symptoms noted above, call your regular doctor. Let them know of any relevant recent travel and what you’re experiencing. If you go in to get checked, make sure you practice great hand hygiene and cover those coughs! Wearing a mask in waiting rooms or doctor’s offices is always a good idea.