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Coronavirus: how it is spread and can be prevented
January 29, 2020
How quickly does the new type of lung disease spread?
With a surprising speed: According to state television CCTV on Tuesday (21.1.2020), there are 77 more confirmed cases, that is, more than 300 infected since the outbreak of the disease in December. The groups of older people are the most affected. Meanwhile, six patients have already died from the virus. These were previously chronically ill.
There are also confirmed infections in Thailand, Japan and South Korea. In addition, a suspicious case is being investigated in Australia and another in the Philippines. All those affected had previously been in the city of Wuhan.
With the current wave of travel on the occasion of the Chinese New Year, it is increasing the risk of transmission. Hundreds of millions of Chinese travel, during these days, to celebrate this holiday. Asian neighboring countries and several airports in other countries of the world have introduced fever controls or other preventive measures. The general nervousness also caused the fall of values in the Asian stock exchanges.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
The Chinese health authorities have confirmed that the pathogen can be transmitted from person to person. The key issue now is how easily it is transmitted, if it can mutate and adapt to the human being.
The first infections have been associated with a fish market, now closed, in Wuhan, where wild animals were also sold. The virus may have been transmitted originally by direct contact between animals and humans (zoonosis) or, like many germs, simply by air.
Further, could be transmitted through food, for example, when eating meat or animal products. If they don't get hot enough or if they were prepared under unfavorable conditions, they also represent a source of infection.
What is known about the coronavirus?
Recently, experts had deciphered the gene sequence of the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV, which had not been previously diagnosed in humans.
Coronaviruses they have known each other since the 1960s. The name is derived from the protein structure and its crown shape around it. Infections are often harmless.For example, with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. They can also manifest with gastrointestinal discomfort, especially diarrhea.
But they are also dangerous and extremely mutant: belong to the RNA virus and have a high genetic variability. This means that it is easy for them to infect a wide variety of species. As a result, viruses also cause more serious diseases, causing shortness of breath and pneumonia, which can even cause death.
In 2002 and 2003, for example, the aggressive SARS-CoV coronavirus triggered an epidemic. At that time, more than 8,000 people became ill worldwide and around 1,000 died. 30 countries were affected. In 2012, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was discovered, which spread across the Arabian Peninsula.
What are the prevention measures?
The World Health Organization (WHO) convened a crisis meeting for this Wednesday (22.1.2020). An emergency committee must report if an international health emergency is declared. This would include, for example, quarantine measures, stricter border controls, the establishment of special treatment centers or restrictions on international travel.
There are already temperature controls for travelers in China and at airports in several Asian countries, the United States and Italy. Until now, there is no travel warning from the WHO or the Federal Foreign Office for Wuhan. The general rules of hygiene and behavior also apply, that is, avoid close contact with people with acute respiratory infections and with live or dead farm animals or wild animals, and wash their hands regularly, especially after direct contact with sick people. .
Nevertheless, experts still do not see danger of worldwide spread. For example, no special measures are necessary in Germany, says Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute. "At this time, the risk is really very low," the virologist told DW. "It is important that the situation is constantly monitored, not only by WHO, but also by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control."