by Kimberly Allen, RN
According to the World Health Organization, WHO, there is a new SARS-like virus that has been found in humans and is calling it “a threat to the entire world”. The new virus is a member of the family of coronavirus. So far the novel corona virus has infected 44 people worldwide and half of them have died. According to the WHO cases of the novel corona virus have been identified in 8 countries including France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia. The first cases of this new virus were discovered in April in a hospital in Amman, Jordan.
Of major concern to health officials is that so little is known about it. Margret Chan director-general of the WHO told the 66th World Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland “we do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond.” At this point the WHO doesn’t even know exactly how wide spread the virus is. However, so that they can coordinate an effective public health response the WHO is encouraging it’s members to share any and all information they have related to the new viral infection. Dr Chan also Stated in Geneva that she is more concerned about the novel corona virus (nCoV) than she is about the H7N9 bird flu and feels that this virus is serious threat to the worldwide population.
So far the novel corona virus or nCoV has not made it to the US yet but infectious disease experts say they won’t be surprised if it does show up in the US. According to the CDC they strongly believe it could show up in the US and have advised health care providers that if patients appear with certain symptoms to inquire about their recent travels. To date most of those that have become infected with the virus have been in the Middle East recently.
The nCoV is being called SARS – like because of the severe respiratory symptoms it produces. The SARS epidemic of 2003 was also caused by a coronavirus and spread to more than 30 countries and killed around 800 people. Because of that experience Dr’s have discovered that by treating patients early with antibiotics and providing respiratory support they can better control a coronavirus infection. The symptoms of nCoV can range from mild cold like symptoms to severe respiratory distress. Typical symptoms of the new corona virus infection include a cough and fever as well as difficulty breathing. Where as in SARS patients went from a cough and fever to chills and muscle aches. Health officials are still unable to predict the potential severity of this new infection or explain why some people that develop the infection become severely ill and even die, while others are able to recover.
Though there is little understood about this virus there are 5 things the WHO wants you to know:
1. The nCoV can be spread from person to person. Though they don’t yet know exactly how the virus is spread they have been able to confirm several clusters of human to human transmission.
2. It’s less transmissible than SARS. Although the coronavirus responsible for the SARS epidemic in 2003 is part of the same family it is only distantly related to the nCoV.
3. It comes from the Middle East. The virus began in Jordan and then spread to several other countries in the Middle East. It was introduced to other countries in Europe by people that had traveled to the Middle East.
4. The symptoms are primarily characterized as a respiratory illness. Although symptoms are primarily respiratory related there have also been reports of diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
5. There are no travel restrictions related the virus. The WHO has not issued any travel or trade restrictions for countries that have reported infections.
There is no cure or vaccine for the nCoV all treatment is aimed at reducing the symptoms. So the best approach is preventive. And though the WHO doesn’t know exactly how the infection is transmitted it’s always good to practice good hand washing and things to prevent any viral infection. If you’re going to be traveling abroad be careful to avoid people that appear to have a respiratory illness.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.