What is the new coronavirus all about?

The World Health Organization (WHO) on May 12 sounded alarm bells over the emergence of a new Coronavirus. There is international concern because it is a virus from the same family of pathogens that triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed 775 people in 2003.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on May 12 sounded alarm bells over the emergence of a new Coronavirus. There is international concern because it is a virus from the same family of pathogens that triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed 775 people in 2003.

The first fatality, confirmed last year, was of a 60-year-old Saudi. Reports now say more than 30 people are infected.

WHO says it is the likely cause of death for at least 18 people in the Middle East and Europe.

Dr Alex Butera, an orthopaedic surgeon at Rwanda Military Hospital, on Wednesday, told The New Times that the Coronavirus was first identified in the 1960s.

He said the name, like many other scientific names, comes from the crown-like projections on the surface of the virus.

“It causes infections in both humans and animals. Infections affect respiratory tract – airways and lungs. Major symptoms and signs, are flu like but may be more severe–like fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulty,” Dr Butera said.

“Treatment is mainly supportive and isolation to prevent spread in a hospital. There is no available vaccine. How does it spread? It does so like common flu, through coughing and sneezing.”

“Transmission is limited, that’s why it has involved fewer countries. Despite this, we need to be vigilant and take precautions to prevent spread, as most cases can be severe. The virus only survives outside the body for only 24hrs. It is easily destroyed by detergents and cleaning agents.”

The Rwanda Health Communication Centre (RHCC) said “the new virus is a beta coronavirus,” and that it is different from other coronaviruses previously found in people.

RHCC said from April 2012 to May 2013, a total of 34 people from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and France were confirmed to have an infection caused by the novel coronavirus.

There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by coronavirus. Medication is supportive to relieve symptoms, RHCC says.

Rwanda has not registered any suspected or confirmed cases, RHCC says. The Ministry of Health says it is on alert and ready to handle a spill-over.

 

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