In the last two weeks, the whole world has been thrown into a frenzy with the outbreak of the deadly virus called the ‘Coronavirus’. Scientists and physicians have since been on the alert, monitoring the infection which started in China.
A novel strain of coronavirus was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province with a population of 11 million, after an outbreak of pneumonia without an obvious cause. The virus has now spread across 25 countries of the world.
According to an Aljazeera report, there are nearly 12,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection globally as of 1 February 2020, with 11, 791 cases in China alone, and 259 reported deaths.
Although pharmacists are likely to come across worried patients, and/or those with cold and flu symptoms which may appear similar to that of coronavirus, there are still many unknown facts about the behaviour of the disease.
What is a coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
They circulate in animals and some can be transmitted between animals and humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
The new coronavirus has been named novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). It is the seventh coronavirus known to affect humans.
In humans, it commonly causes mild infections, similar to the common cold, and accounts for 10-30% of upper respiratory tract infections in adults.
What are the symptoms?
Although, the incubation period according to the WHO is between 1 to 14 days, the body disclosed that common signs of the infection include– fever, coughing and breathing difficulties.
In his orientation message, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Akin Abayomi, said typical symptoms include: Headache, Fever, Stomach Pain, Chills, Rapid Heartbeat, Sore Throat, Cough, Shortness of Breath and sometimes, Pneumonia.
How contagious is it?
Increasing numbers of confirmed diagnoses, including in healthcare professionals have indicated that the virus spreads easily from person-to-person. The preliminary reproduction number (i.e. the average number of cases a single case generates over the course of its infectious period) is currently estimated to be between 1.4 to 2.5, meaning that each infected individual could infect between 1.4 and 2.5 people.
How is Coronavirus diagnosed?
Although, a blood test is required to ascertain if one is infected or not, physicians say diagnosis is suspected in patients with signs and symptoms of pneumonia who have reported travel to an affected location, or who have had contact with a person with confirmed or suspected case of the virus.
How can You Protect Yourself against the virus?
To prevent yourself from being infected, the WHO recommends the following:
- Basic hand hygiene such as washing hands with soap and water, and making sure to cover your mouth with your elbow when sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid unnecessary, unprotected contact with animals and be sure to thoroughly wash hands after contact.
- Ensure meat consumed is cooked thoroughly.
The body also advised people against traveling to countries with reported cases, especially China.
Which Country has reported cases of Coronavirus?
The 25 countries with reported cases of the virus as of February 2, 2020 are: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South-Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, USA, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.
Has Nigeria recorded any coronavirus case?
Presently, there is no reported case of the virus in Nigeria. But the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday, February 1, 2020, listed Nigeria among the 13 high-risk African countries for Coronavirus. This, the body explained is because of their affiliations with China, and a high volume of travel to China.
However, to ensure that this deadly virus does not spread into Nigeria, the Federal Government had released N71m for surveillance and screening.
Here is a sensitization video by the Lagos State ministry of health:
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this while Speaking after the Coronavirus Inter-Ministerial Multisectoral Preparedness and Response meeting in Abuja on Friday.
Ehanire stated that a team had been set up to develop action plan for the government on the next plan.
“We had a good and successful meeting with health commissioners from Lagos, Kano, Enugu, and Rivers states as well as the FCT. We have addressed all the strengths and weaknesses of the system. We have set up a team to develop an action plan for the government.
“An advisory from the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday directed Nigerians to halt travel plan to China while also directing all returnees to Nigeria from China to be indoors within a period of two weeks to fully monitor possible symptoms,” the Minister said.
Ehanire added that henceforth, people entering into the country would be monitored closely and get tested.
As it stands, there are no known vaccines that protect or cure the deadly virus, but reports say several groups of scientists have started working on a vaccine shortly after Chinese scientists shared the virus’s genetic sequence in an online public database on January 10, 2020.