Coronavirus: What you need to know right now

“This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically.” Credit: CDC Public Health Image Library (PHIL) #23312.
February 18th, 2020     Featured Health & Wellness

New Albany MS – Much is being written about coronavirus, some of it quite confusing, as often happens in a fast-moving event. What are some of the important points everyone should know about this new public health menace? brings its readers a distillation of some pertinent facts and events. One take-away? Do not trust your public health to the Chinese government.

What is a coronavirus?

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced the official name of COVID-19 for the disease that is causing the current deadly outbreak of coronavirus disease.

Coronavirus is named for the crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus. (Corona is the Latin word for crown). With the addition of COVID-19, there are now seven coronaviruses known to infect humans, according to the CDC.  These viruses generally spread via human contact with an infected person, but may also be able to infect from surface contamination. They typically cause cold-like symptoms, such as cough, fever and runny nose.  While some are mild, others have the tendency to cause pneumonia.

Two well-known manifestations of coronaviruses are SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).   SARS emerged in late 2002 and disappeared by 2004; MERS emerged in 2012 and remains viable in camels.

Where did COVID-19 come from?

The Covid-19 coronavirus is similar to one detected in bats in China in 2013.  No action was taken following warnings issued by those who studied the 2013 virus. Therefore, an opportunity to protect human health was missed..

NE Mississippi news Dr. LI Wenliang

Dr. Li Wenliang

Some researchers believe the Covid-19 virus passed to humans from pangolins, which are scaly anteaters, mammals of the order Pholidota. However others believe pangolins are merely victims of the infection, like humans. “From the virology evidence available to date, the virus is almost certainly from a species of bat,” says Andrew Cunningham of the Zoological Society of London.

The current deadly outbreak of COVID-19 was first brought to light by Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist working in Wuhan, China.  Using the WeChat social platform, he warned other physicians in December 2019 that he had seen SARS-like infections in Wuhan.  SARS had killed about 800 people in 2002-2003 in China. Within a few days, local police summoned Dr. Li and forced him to sign a statement in which he admitted to “making false statements.” Thus ended the chance that world health officials could quickly get ahead of this fast-moving virus.

New Albany ms giant pangolin

Giant pangolin, Naturl History Museum, London. Said to be the world’s most trafficked mammal.

Dr. Li Wenliang, age 34, died of the COVID-19 coronavirus on February 7, 2020.  By the time of his death, the then-unnamed coronavirus was well on its way to becoming a major, world-wide health issue.

By the way, Chinese officials also tried, unsuccessfully, to cover up the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.

How far has the new coronavirus now spread?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 to be global health emergency. It has killed at least 1,770 people in mainland China, with cases confirmed in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa.

As of Feb. 17, COVID-19 cases were confirmed in China, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, the United States, France, Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Germany, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Finland, India, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Spain, Belgium and Egypt.

Nearly half of China’s population — more than 780 million people — are currently living under various forms of travel restrictions  in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19.

As of the time this story was written, there are 58,625 active cases world wide, 20% of which are “serious,” and there are 12,837 cases considered to be “recovered.”  There have been a total of 1874 deaths reported: 1869 in China and one each in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Philipines.

There are currently 15 active cases reported in the US.  So far, cases have been diagnosed in California, Washington, Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and now Texas, according to the CDC.

What’s the story about coronavirus patients in Memphis?

According to the Shelby County Health Department Director, Dr. Alisa Haushalter, there are currently 20 people are in” self-isolation for observation for coronavirus in Shelby County, after traveling to higher risk areas overseas.  Dr. Haushalter said while none of the 20 people showed any coronavirus symptoms, they’ll each spend two weeks in self-isolation, as recommended by the Centers For Disease Control.

“This epidemic has evolved very, very quickly,” Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said. “When people traveled initially, it may not have been a concern, as they travel back, it may be more of a concern. They’ve been asked to remain at home for a set period of time,” Dr. Haushalter said. “This is your public health system at work.”

So far, there’s still no confirmed cases in the Mississippi, Tennessee or Arkansas.

Can anything be done to prevent COVID-19?

The CDC recommends people avoid non-essential travel to China, where the most coronavirus cases are reported.

Coronaviruses in general are spread through close contact — a range of about 3 to 6 feet. The virus is primarily spread through a sick person coughing or sneezing on someone else.  Infection may also be spread through contact with the virus particles on surfaces,  though it’s  still unknown how long the new coronavirus can survive outside of the body.  So, follow these suggestions for routine prevention:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., shortness of breath or difficulty breathing).
  • In the unlikely event you or a family member are placed on home isolation or admitted to a hospital for COVID-19, more specific procedures will be put into place. To see CDC guidelines.

Disinfectants can kill the coronavirus. The CDC suggests that anyone exposed to an infected patient clean all “high-touch” surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables. Cleaning agents can include a household disinfectant with a label that says “EPA-approved,” according to the CDC. A homemade version can be made, using one tablespoon of bleach to one quart of water.

Beware of a much more likely viral problem: Influenza

Shelby County Health Director Dr. Haushalter said, “People should be more concerned about the flu. We lose thousands of people in the United States each year as a result of the flu.”

“I think we are so accustomed to it coming annually that we get complacent about that, but that’s actually more likely to cause harm, particularly in our area, than coronavirus.”


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