Whether or not you’re experiencing symptoms of the flu or have recently travelled to China, it’s wise to read up on the new coronavirus, or ‘Wuhan pneumonia’. After all, the number of people infected with the new virus continues to increase. Here’s what to know about the flu-like illness and what you can do to protect yourself.
What we know so far
A cousin of the SARS virus, China’s new strain of coronavirus has infected thousands of people since its outbreak in Wuhan, China. Cases of pneumonia were reported in Wuhan in December, after which a ‘novel coronavirus’ was identified as the cause. The infection has since spread from Wuhan to other major cities in China and abroad, with confirmed cases in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, the US, Canada, France, Germany, Finland, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Russia, U.A.E., Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia and here in Singapore.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has implemented temperature screening at Changi Airport to all travellers arriving from China.
What is a coronavirus?
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
The viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract infection that’s similar to a common cold.
Symptoms of coronavirus
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
“The virus presents with symptoms similar to the common cold or flu,” says DR FOONG TSIN UIN, Deputy Medical Director of International Medical Clinic (IMC). “If you develop symptoms such as cough, fever, shortness of breath and have travelled to mainland China within the last 14 days, please seek immediate medical attention. There is no vaccine or antiviral drugs available for this virus. However, symptoms can be treated”.
According to WHO, the best ways to prevent the infection from spreading include:
- washing your hands regularly with soap and water;
- covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing;
- avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing;
- avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals (coronaviruses can be transmitted from animals to humans); and
- thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
Dr Foong also says it’s important that patients notify medical staff upon booking an appointment if they are concerned about their risk of exposure to coronavirus.