Coronavirus - what is it and where does it come from?

Coronavirus is making all the headlines at the moment but what is it and where does it come from?

On 31 December 2019 the World Health Organisation (WHO) China office heard about the first reports of a previously unknown virus causing a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, a city of over 11 million people in Eastern China. The disease appears to have originated from a seafood market where wild animals were traded illegally. Corona viruses are known to jump from animals to humans so it’s thought that the first people infected contracted it from animals. However, some people without links to the market have also been infected so the exact source is still not conclusive.

The WHO advise that the incubation period between infection and symptoms lasts up to 14 days but other sources quote up to 24 days. Many symptoms of corona viruses are often mild much like a cold, runny nose, cough and fever. These symptoms can become more serious leading to respiratory disease such as pneumonia and bronchitis. This can be particularly dangerous in older patients or people with existing health conditions.

On 11 February 2020 the WHO announced that the official name of the disease was now Covid-19. 

The majority of cases have been in China but cases have now been confirmed in many other countries including the UK. As of 17 February 2020 70,620 cases had been confirmed in China with 1,770 deaths from the disease. Approximately 715 people outside China including nine in the UK have been tested positive for the disease. So far six people have died from the virus outside of China.

If symptoms are minor no treatment is needed. If they become more severe, treatment relies on keeping the body going with breathing support until the immune system can fight off the virus. However, work to develop a vaccine is underway and the hope is that it will be available by the end of the year.

Very recent news reports that more cases have been confirmed in South Korea. The WHO has declared it a global emergency but believe it can be contained. It is also hoped that the coming warmer weather may slow down the spread of the virus. Let us all hope this is the case.