The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is concerned with world public health. With the outbreak of a new disease, it has been alert. Now, WHO has settled on a name for the disease caused by the outbreak of a previously-unknown coronavirus. The disease is called COVID-19. It was chosen by the World Health Organization to avoid implying any association with people, places or animals. Usually, troubling viruses originate in animal hosts. For instance, Ebola and flu. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals. In 2002, SARS spread virtually unchecked to 37 countries, causing global panic, infecting more than 8,000 people, and killing more than 750. MERS appears to be less easily passed from human to human, but has greater lethality, killing 35% of about 2,500 people who have been infected.
COVID-19 is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city, which also sold live and newly slaughtered animals. The outbreak has infected more than 60,000 people. The vast majority of these cases are in China, where at least 1,368 people have died.
Research workers are trying to develop treatments and vaccines that could help control the current outbreak. Here are some simple tips that will help protect you from any respiratory disease, including COVID-19:
Wash your hands: wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Lather your hands, including the backs, between your fingers, and under your nails and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the bin and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue to hand, cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.
Face masks offer some protection as they block liquid droplets. However, they do not block smaller aerosol particles that can pass through the material of the mask. The masks can also leave the eyes exposed and there is evidence that some viruses can infect a person through the eyes.
If visiting live markets in affected areas avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces that have been in contact with animals. If you are in an affected area avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman