The known truth of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Karolina Stachyra, a second year medical student studying at Medical University of Warsaw in Poland. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

How does one contract 2019-nCoV? What are the prodromal symptoms? Does it result in a fatal disease? More and more new questions have been posed since the news concerning the virus epidemic saw the light of the day. The first case was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, on the 30th December 2019. The contagious germ responsible for the sudden outbreak was called the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

2019-nCoV is a new strain of a vast family of coronaviruses that bring on respiratory and rarely gastrointestinal symptoms. The contagion could appear as a common cold with runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough and breathlessness. However, pneumonia, kidney failure or even death could occur within the more severe course of infection. There are not any specific symptoms that directly indicate the novel coronavirus contagion.

2019-nCoV is most commonly recognized by a polymerase chain reaction that identifies its specific genetic fingerprint. The incubation period is thought to be up to 14 days, estimated from other coronaviruses.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic and it is believed that the first afflicted person caught 2019-nCoV within the live animal market in China. To prevent accidental transmission, the consumption of undercooked meat or raw animal products should be avoided. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that companion pets such as cats or dogs could be transmitters.

According to the latest data, there are not any remedies recommended for prevention or treatment of 2019-nCoV infection; specific medications and vaccines are under investigation. Supportive care is provided for those with the severe types of infection. It is worth mentioning that antibiotics do not work directly on viruses, they can be only used to treat bacterial co-infections. There are substances which can even be detrimental like vitamin C, herbal teas or smoking, and commonly known methods for eradicating germs for instance eating garlic, rinsing nose with saline or gargling mouthwash do not have an impact on protecting against novel coronavirus.

Although everyone can be infected by 2019-nCoV, the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes are more susceptible. Novel coronavirus is sensitive to alcohol-based hand sanitizer and water with soap, so washing your hands frequently is vital in prevention. 2019-nCoV could possibly survive a few hours on surfaces meaning facial region contact with contaminated hands could lead to infection. That is the reason why there is no likelihood to contract the virus by receiving packages from China. Being transmitted by the droplets produced by infected people, it is advised to maintain at least 1 meter social distance from them. Those, who have developed respiratory symptoms, should wear protective masks to not infect others.

Thus, if you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms and have been in China or have had contact with somebody with a respiratory disease who had been there within 14 days, you should promptly seek medical care.

About the author

Karolina Stachyra is a second year medical student studying at Medical University of Warsaw in Poland. She has been the member of International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA) since October 2018. Being local coordinator of three projects pertaining to SCOPH, SCORA and SCORP, she observes how education changes people’s attitude towards their health. As the assistant of LPO (SCOPH), she believes that easy access to verifiable knowledge is fundamental in developing public awareness concerning global health.

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