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What you need to know about coronavirus

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">​​Coronavirus is the latest global health scare, the third
time in a century the world is dealing with the virus. As health professionals
put measures to deal with the virus, public education should a priority.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Coronavirus is the name of a group of viruses that are named
because they have the appearance of a crown. These viruses have been known for
decades as causes of upper respiratory infections in people, never very
serious. Then the first outbreak of human infection with serious lower
respiratory infection occurred in 2002; called SARS (severe acute respiratory
syndrome).</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">This originated in southern China and some cases were found
in other countries throughout the world. The outbreak ended in April 2003;
about 10% of cases died. The source was eventually found to be bats, but they
may have caused human infection through other animals such as civets.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The next major coronavirus was MERS (middle eastern
respiratory syndrome), first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. This outbreak
was primarily concentrated in the middle east and few infections resulted from
human to human transmission. The original source was a bat, but camels may have
played a role in the transmission to humans. The mortality was about 30%.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The current coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China is likely
to also be from a bat, but the means of transmission to humans is still not
known. The extent of human to human transmission is not yet clear and so far,
the mortality rate appears to be about 3%. (However, this is very early in the
outbreak and the number could change up or down). Although the virus has now
been identified in patients in many parts of the world, we don’t yet know how
much transmission there will be in those countries. Sensitization on
coronavirus is therefore necessary for the public to keep vigil and protect
themselves.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How is it contacted?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The initial source of human infection was probably a bat,
but possibly through another mammal. We know there is human to human
transmission and one of the important questions to be answered is how much of a
risk that is.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"> <strong>Does it have a cure?</strong></span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The big question in the minds of many is whether coronavirus
has a cure. There is not a specific treatment for this virus (or for most other
viruses). However, most people will not require hospitalisation and with good
quality medical care, most infected cases will survive.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"> <strong>How can one protect
themselves?</strong></span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">You can protect yourself by limiting your exposure to
infection from people with respiratory illness. The most important thing is to
wash your hands with soap and water or with an alcohol sanitizer before and
after contact with others who might be infected. Also, avoid coughing or being
coughed on by others. </span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">It is important to note that there are many respiratory
viruses around, including influenza, RSV and others that you are much more
likely to be exposed to. These precautions will help with all of those viruses.
Consider getting the influenza vaccine. Influenza is far more common and can
also be deadly. The illness is similar to that of the new coronavirus.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What can authorities do to prevent the risk of the spread of
the virus?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The most important thing authorities can do is to have an
effective surveillance system that allows quick identification of infected
patients and the ability for The Ministry of Health to establish a system for
collecting respiratory specimens from people who might be infected. The samples
will be tested at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). There is already
work that is ongoing on a vaccine in the US for coronavirus, but this is very
early in the process so it remains to be seen how effective that effort will
be.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"> <em><strong>By Prof. Rodney Adam,
Chair, Infection Control Committee, Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi</strong></em>

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