On Friday, 24 January 2020, Australia became the latest continent to have confirmed a case of the coronavirus.
This is barely one month from the time the first victim was identified in Wuhan, China. Currently, the figures stand at: 106 dead and 4515 infected.
Now, here are the 10 surprising facts you probably never knew about this highly contagious virus:
- The Wuhan coronavirus has no name yet.
Scientists are yet to identify the particular strain of coronavirus responsible for it which explains why the virus is yet to be properly named.
Scientists have labelled it as 2019-nCoV (which simply means 2019 novel coronavirus) for easy reference. Media houses prefer to address it as the Wuhan coronavirus.
- This is the third major coronavirus outbreak and the second in China.
In 2002, we had SARS coronavirus which was believed to have been transmitted from civet cats. In 2012, we had the deadly MERS coronavirus which came from a type of camel. The Wuhan coronavirus is thought to have come from bats or snakes.
- The disease has spread to 4 Continents.
Cases of the coronavirus have been seen in 7 countries in Asia, America, Europe and most recently, Australia. There is a suspected case of the virus in Ivory Coast and the only such case in Africa. Antarctica and South America are the only continents yet to report a case.
- Wildlife trade has been banned in China.
The virus began to spread from the Wuhan’s seafood market, where marmot, bats and other wildlife are sold live. Chinese health authorities are yet to have a concrete evidence of the origin of the virus, but bats and snakes are still believed to be the primary source of the virus.
- A strain of the coronavirus also causes common cold.
It is important to note that common cold is caused by more than 200 different viruses. 50 percent of common cold cases is caused by the rhinovirus, but a less severe strain of coronavirus will cause common cold too.
6. The Wuhan coronavirus was initially thought to be a new strain of pneumonia.
The symptoms of the virus are the same as seen in flu and pneumonia. Fever, sore throat and cough are seen in the early stages. As the disease progresses, patients will begin to experience breathing difficulties.
- There is no drug or vaccine that can treat the virus.
Patients diagnosed with the virus are treated based on the symptoms they present with.
Ebola vaccine (Ervebo) was approved 5 years after the 2014 major outbreak; the Zika virus vaccine was produced in about 7 months and it still remains the fastest ever time to produce a vaccine.
It may take up to 3 years to produce a coronavirus vaccine.
- You can contact the virus up to 6-feet away from an infected person.
The virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, contact with infected secretions or surface.
According to WHO, one infected person can infect 1.4 – 2.5 susceptible people. The spread is harder to control because an infected person can transmit the disease even before they start showing any symptoms of ill-health.
- Scientists at John Hopkins Center for Health Security predicted that coronavirus could kill up to 65 million people.
Three months before the outbreak in China, the scientists modeled a hypothetical pandemic on a computer as part of a research in October — their simulation predicted the deaths of some 65 million people worldwide in just 18 months.
The death toll of the coronavirus is currently at 106 after one month. This prediction becomes less convincing if you do the maths and that’s a good thing.
- WHO is yet to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for the pandemic.
The WHO Director-General has twice met with members of its Emergency Committee. For the two meetings, the agreement has been that it is too early to declare a PHEIC for the Wuhan’s coronavirus.
Since the introduction of PHEIC in 2005, WHO has only declared it five times. The last time a PHEIC was announced was in 2019 after a fresh Ebola virus outbreak in Congo.
Ivory Coast is the first African country with a suspected case of the virus. Although authorities are yet to release an official statement to confirm if the student who arrived from China is infected with the virus.
Other African countries have been warned to brace up for possible coronavirus cases. South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria have been on high alert. These countries have begun screening at entry points as a preventative measure. Ethiopia which has the continent’s biggest airline has been advised to take similar measures.
These are precautionary measures to reduce exposure and transmission of the virus:
- Frequently wash hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap;
- Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing;
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough especially, if you live in a high risk area;
- Seek early medical help if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Also, share your travel history with healthcare providers;
- Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas;
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods
This article is current at the time of publication. However, information about this virus is still inconclusive and subject to changes as scientists continue to make more discoveries. To stay informed on recent developments concerning the virus, follow daily news updates on it. News agencies like Healthline The Guardian and The CNN release updates multiple time during the day.