In the family of Corona Viruses, there is a new kid in the block that is posing a threat of becoming an epidemic. This new pneumonia-like virus, belonging to the Corona Virus family, has been named Novel Corona Virus (2019 nCoV). It originated in the city of Wuhan, in China.
The Corona Virus is usually found in animals. We are already familiar with two members of the family that were first seen in bats – SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002 and MERS -CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012. The new 2019-nCoV seems to have been first found in snakes. Incidentally, it is reported that the first victims of the virus were people who worked or regularly shopped in Wuhan’s seafood market.
The symptoms of the infection include fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus has spread from animals to human. However, the virus can spread among humans via air (particles of virus transmitted through a cough or sneeze), close personal contact, touching an object/surface carrying the virus and in rare cases, fecal contamination.
There are currently 500 cases reported and 17 deaths linked to the virus. The virus seems to have spread to Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and US (a man from Washington who recently flew from China has been diagnosed with nCoV).
The World Health Organization (WHO) is closely monitoring the situation and has informed that it is too early to declare an emergency in this matter. There were fears that the virus is likely to spread more widely because of the lunar new year holidays in China when many people would travel. But the Chinese Government has cancelled the new year festivities and quarantined the city of Wuhan by cutting off public transport to and from the city. All metro stations, airports have suspended operations, buses and trains have been cancelled and the city is in lockdown. Even the access to highways has been sealed off to contain the spread of the virus. The US authorities have implemented screening at their airports. Countries like India are closely monitoring the situation by putting up awareness flyers across all stations, airports and other public spaces. The Health Ministry of India is also following up with their External Affairs Ministry to get a list of people travelling from Wuhan, who have applied for an Indian Visa.
Vaccination for the virus is yet to be found and it is stated that the reaction to the virus also majorly depends on the immune system of the person infected. Though the strict measures are effected by the Governments in place to contain the entry of the virus to their nation, there are few things that we can do to protect ourselves from the virus are washing our hands regularly and thoroughly, avoiding close contact with sick people who have recently travelled back from China and immediately seeking medical help if we are sick for more than two weeks.