The corona virus from China continues to spread. More and more countries are reporting infections and suspected cases. The most important questions and answers about the virus “2019-nCo”.
What are corona viruses?
The World Health Organization has so far called the virus “2019-nCoV”. Like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) or the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), it belongs to the family of coronaviruses. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the highest federal agency for infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases in Berlin, coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. They can infect humans as well as various animals, including birds and mammals. They cause various diseases in humans, from common colds to dangerous or even potentially fatal diseases such as Sars and Mers. Similar to the flu, the virus can be particularly dangerous for older and sick people. According to previous reports, fatalities have always occurred if there were previous illnesses.
How is the virus transmitted?
Like all corona viruses, the new pathogen is in most cases transmitted between animals and humans. However, it is now known that the new corona virus can also be transmitted from person to person. This is how hospital staff got infected when they treated patients. However, according to the Robert Koch Institute, information on how the virus is transmitted is currently lacking. Coronavirus infection is usually a smear or droplet infection. According to studies, everyone infected with the virus infects two to three other people. Whether the contagion rate will stay that way depends on the effectiveness of the countermeasures, say scientists from Imperial College in London and the University of Lancaster. To contain the disease, at least 60 percent of new infections would have to be prevented in the future.
What symptoms do sufferers feel?
According to the Robert Koch Institute, common coronaviruses usually cause symptoms of a respiratory illness, i.e. the effects of a mild cold with a cough and a feeling of severe tiredness and listlessness. According to the current status, it is typical of the novel coronavirus that the upper respiratory tract is hardly affected. For example, those affected have no runny nose. However, certain coronaviruses can also cause serious infections of the lower respiratory tract, which can lead to fever, shortness of breath and also pneumonia. The new corona virus appears to be associated with a more severe course. So far, however, deaths have mainly occurred in patients who have previously suffered from serious underlying diseases.
How are sick people treated?
An effective drug or vaccine is being sought worldwide, but it can take years. According to the Robert Koch Institute, specific therapy is not yet available. So far, affected patients have only been treated with common medication. However, according to the RKI, supportive treatment of the infection according to the severity of the disease has proven to be “very effective”. This includes the additional administration of oxygen and further ventilation assistance, additional fluids and, if necessary, the administration of antibiotics for the treatment of accompanying bacterial infections. According to a report by the Bloomberg news agency, the Chinese are using HIV medication to treat pneumonia caused by the novel corona virus
Are there tests for the new coronvirus?
Yes, there is a test specifically for the corona virus. Immediately after deciphering the genetic sequence of the novel virus, laboratories set about developing a test that can be used to prove whether a patient is infected with the pathogen as reliably as possible. The Institute of Virology at the Charité in Berlin has also developed such a test. The laboratory was also involved in the description of the pathogen during the Sars pandemic in 2002/2003 and had also developed a first test at that time. The Sars virus is very similar to the new pathogen. A comparable test has been developed in some countries, such as the USA and China. Many laboratories worldwide would also use the test from Berlin, said the director of the institute Christian Dorsten. By Friday, over 150 inquiries from national health laboratories and university hospitals in Berlin had been received. The laboratories not only receive information on how to carry out a test themselves, but they are also sent the key molecule for the test.
How long is the incubation period?
The incubation period of the coronavirus is usually ten days. The shortest registered period was only one day, the longest 14 days, the director of the Chinese National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, reported on Sunday. Infected people are already contagious at this time, although they do not yet show any symptoms of the disease. Even if the risk of the new lung disease for Germany is still classified as low, people with supposed symptoms are increasingly reporting to practices and clinics. Contagion is still considered unlikely in this country. Often the colds or flu infections that circulate in the winter half-year are behind such diseases.
Where does the virus come from?
So far there is only speculation about the origin. Many properties of the virus are still unknown, according to the Robert Koch Institute. It is currently believed that the first patients contracted an animal market in Wuhan in early December that closed on January 1, 2020. It is believed that the new variant of the Sars virus may come from snakes or bats. Some Chinese consider rare meat to be a delicacy. And wild animals that are offered in markets in a confined space are considered a breeding ground for viruses that can change and can also be transmitted to humans. The Sars virus, with which around 8000 people became infected 18 years ago and died of just under 800, apparently originated from the consumption of sneak cats. In China, wildlife trade has now been banned in response to the novel virus. The market authorities also ordered all breeding farms to be quarantined on Sunday. Not only the trade, but also the transportation of wild animals is prohibited. All food platforms – from fresh markets to supermarkets and restaurants to online shops – would have to stop selling. The authorities should closely monitor the ban.
Does a mouthguard help against infections?
In Germany, the mostly light green, white or light blue mouth or face protection made of plastic fleece is actually only known from hospitals. From Tokyo to Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, on the other hand, these masks, which cover the mouth and nose, have long been part of the normal cityscape, but so far mainly as protection against smog. With the spread of the corona virus from China, however, a rush to the masks began worldwide. Since last Wednesday, they have had to carry the residents of the city of Wuhan, from which the virus has spread. In the province of Hubei, face protection has become so scarce that the authorities are calling for donations. The residents of Guangdong Province, with almost 100 confirmed cases, have been obliged since Sunday to wear a face mask in general in public places. Delivery bottlenecks are now even reported from Australia and the USA. And yet the protective function against germ transmission is controversial among experts. They warn against self-deception. After all, they also assume that the wearers also observe other regulations on infection protection, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and distance from the sick. And so these masks probably prevent another way of infection: touching the mouth and nose with your fingers.