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COVID-19 aka coronavirus: The who, what, when, where, why and how?

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19, formerly known as the 2019 novelcoronavirus (nCov-19) and, the Wuhan coronavirus, is an upper respiratory tract illness that has flu-like symptoms. These include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, and sometimes a headache and fever which can last for a few days. This virus however can be deadly and far more threatening among those with a weaker immune system, such as the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. The virus can develop into a lower and far more serious respiratory tract illness such as pneumonia, bronchitis, kidney failure, or even death

What animals carry the coronavirus?

It’s reported that a wide range of coronaviruses can be found in bats –– alpha and beta coronaviruses in particular. However, other animal species have been found to be carriers for zoonotic coronaviruses including civet cats and camels.

What animal spread the novel coronavirus in Wuhan?

The original animal source in Wuhan is yet to be confirmed by public health officials. Although some analysis suggests that it originated from bats, it is still not known whether the virus was transmitted directly to humans from bats, or, if there was an intermediary animal host.

What causes human-to-human transmissions of the coronavirus?

Human-to-human transmission of the virus is found to spread through respiratory droplets. Exposure can happen between people in close contact with each other, or through respiratory droplets from an infected person when they cough, sneeze or exhale. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby, or possibly inhaled into the lungs. A less common but nonetheless possible way to contract coronavirus is when touching a surface or an object that has the virus on it, and then touch your own mouth, nose or eyes. 

What is the incubation period for the coronavirus?

The incubation period is estimated between 2 and 14 days. At this point, it is confirmed that human-to-human transmission can happen when those infected start showing symptoms. However, it is still unclear if asymptomatic people can transmit COVID-19. 

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

COVID-19 presents flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath. Those infected may also have trouble breathing, pain in the muscles and fatigue. Serious cases of COVID-19 can progress into severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and even septic shock all of which can lead to death.

Why is it called COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been detected before. The World Health Organisation (WHO) labelled it this way since COVID-19 is an abbreviation of the words “corona”, “virus”, and “disease” with 19 being the year that the outbreak was first identified –– December 31st 2019.

Why was COVID-19 renamed?

COVID-19 was renamed to distinguish it from previous strains of coronaviruses, and also to prevent the use of names that can be stigmatizing or misleading. This includes removing the names of a geographical location, animal, individual or group of people in the name of the virus and ensuring that it is easily pronounced and related to the disease.How is COVID-19 diagnosed?

COVID-19 can be detected via a test known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), which identifies the virus based on its genetic fingerprint. Typically, you are recommended to be tested if you have a sudden acute respiratory infection, and have had a travel history to an area with ongoing community coronavirus transmission, or have the potential of coming into close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 infection.

How can you protect yourself from the coronavirus?

Standard hygiene practices are being recommended by government officials worldwide. To prevent the further spread of the 2019 virus, it has been suggested to limit contact with those unwell, wear masks when in public spaces and perform regular handwashing, particularly when handling animal products or animals.

How similar is COVID-19 to SARS and MERS?

SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was identified and caused widespread outbreaks from 2002 to 2004. The virus affected 8,096 people globally in different countries, causing severe pulmonary infections. 

For SARS-CoV, bats were also a likely origin of the virus. The virus later spread to Himalayan palm civets, Chinese ferret badgers and raccoon dogs in wet markets of Guangdong, China. The virus started transmitting between humans when people handling and consuming these animals were infected.

MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) on the other hand, was identified in 2012 in Saudi-Arabaia. It has been traced to contact with camels. Routes of human-to-human transmission are still unclear. It is suspected that zoonotic infections occurred when raw camel milk, or other camel products infected with MERS-CoV were consumed by humans. Like COVID-19, MERS-CoV infections can range from asymptomatic to symptomatic.

Both SARS and MERS are cases of previous outbreaks of coronaviruses.

How does the coronavirus spread?

Typically, coronaviruses circulate among animals, but it can sometimes make the jump to humans – these types of coronaviruses are called zoonotic coronaviruses. This occurs when there is a mutation in the virus or increased contact between humans and infected animals. 

How many people have been infected with the coronavirus?

As of 24 February 2020, there have been 78,950 cases of COVID-19 globally. The latest death toll is 2,463 deaths and the virus has spread to 29 countries.

Who is most at risk to COVID-19?

Those with existing chronic conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19. 

Elderly people and those with underlying conditions such as hypertension, heart disorders, diabetes, liver disorders and respiratory disease are more at risk of developing severe symptoms of the virus if infected.

Who has the highest number of confirmed cases outside of China? 

As of the 22nd February, 2020, the highest number of confirmed cases outside of China is the Republic of Korea, who has 602 confirmed cases and a death toll of 5. This is followed by Japan, who has 132 confirmed infections and a death toll of 1, and Singapore who has 89 confirmed infections so far with 0 deaths.

Where did the coronavirus start?

The coronavirus was first identified in China among a group of people with pneumonia. At that time it was related to people who were associated with the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (a live seafood and animal market) in Wuhan, China. The disease then spread to family members and healthcare staff and since then has spread globally.

Where can you get tested for COVID-19?

If your doctor suspects that you may have contracted COVID-19, he or she will instruct you on the procedure and advice to follow. Typically, they will direct you to a laboratory that can perform the test to confirm the infection.

When will medication be available for COVID-19 patients?

There is currently no specific medication for the virus and no vaccine to protect against the virus, although public health officials are developing ways to treat it. To read more about the latest updates on this see this article

When will the outbreak be contained?

Although data from China continues to show a decline in new cases, it is still too premature to make predictions about the outbreak.

Cases outside of China remain relatively small. However, the WHO is concerned about cases outside of China with no epidemiological link, including travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case.

*All figures stated were last updated as stated however as the situation continues to unfold, please check the latest official government announcements for the most up-to-date figures. 


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