TWO people have been struck down with killer coronavirus in the UK, health bosses have confirmed.
It comes as China had its deadliest day yet as the death toll hit 213 with cases surging towards 10,000.
The deadly infection is thought to have jumped from animals to humans in Chinese city of Wuhan about a month ago.
Experts are still trying to understand the new bug after the first confirmed cases in those who haven’t visited China were reported.
While there’s no known treatment, there are steps to take to reduce your risk of catching the new coronavirus…
Know the signs
The virus is transmitted between people in droplets from coughing and sneezing and touching or shaking hands.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from catching 2019-nCoV is to be aware of the symptoms, which include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- High temperature
Most victims of the virus die from complications including pneumonia and swelling in the lungs.
It also causes swelling in the respiratory system, which can make it hard for the lungs to pass oxygen into the bloodstream – leading to organ failure and death.
Severe pneumonia can kill people by causing them to “drown” in the fluid flooding their lungs.
Wash your hands
Almost everyone will be infected with a type of coronavirus at some point in their life – often it’s no more serious than a cold.
But in rare cases, the infection can be much more serious – as is the case with this new strain.
The best way to prevent catching any form of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
It says that in order to reduce your risk of infection, you should:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with others.
You should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze then throw it away and wash your hands.
Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces which you may have touched is also important.
Dr Daniel Atkinson, clinical lead at Treated.com, said: “Hygiene is incredibly important to ward off any viruses.
“Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly – for at least 20 seconds – and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
“If you can, avoid contact with sick people and avoid shaking hands with anyone displaying flu-like symptoms.”
Do face masks prevent infection?
Chinese authorities have encouraged people to wear surgical masks to help stop the spread of the new virus.
But some infectious disease experts say that there’s little high-quality scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of them outside of a clinical setting.
Dr Julie Vaishampayan, chairwoman of the public health committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, says that surgical masks are really “the last line of defence.”
She warned that as they aren’t fitted or sealed, the masks can leave gaps around the mouth “so you’re not filtering out all the air that comes in”.
She told the NY Times: “We worry about people feeling they’re getting more protection from the mask than they really are.
“Washing your hands and avoiding people who are ill is way more important than wearing a mask.”
Washing your hands and avoiding people who are ill is way more important than wearing a mask
Dr Julie Vaishampayan
However, infectious disease doctor Dr Amesh Adalja, from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says that they do block most large respiratory droplets from other people’s sneezes and coughs.
He added that the biggest problem though is people not using the masks properly.
Dr Adalja pointed out that if people put their hand underneath their mask to scratch or rub their nose, they are allowing themselves to come into contact with contaminants.
Professor Paul Cosford, former medical director at Public Health England, said the agency was not advising Brits to use face masks at the moment, but is monitoring developments carefully.
Who’s most at risk?
The new strain of coronavirus is believed to have originated at a seafood market in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan.
The Huanan Seafood market, which sold live koalas, snakes, rats and wolf pup to locals to eat, has since been shut down while an investigation is carried out.
Those most at risk are understood to be those who worked or visited the market – or has come into contact with anyone who has.
However, as the incubation period ranges from five days to two weeks, people may have unknowingly picked up the virus and subsequently travelled.
That’s what makes the risk higher for those outside of Wuhan, experts say.
Dr. Debra Chew, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told Fox News: “Risks of contracting disease is based on epidemiologic exposure.
“Therefore exposure to persons infected with the Wuhan coronavirus, and those ill with respiratory symptoms who have travelled to Wuhan or neighboring cities.
“This may expand with more cases and global travel.”
She said it’s unclear whether pregnant women are at a greater risk than others, but confirmed younger people, senior citizens and those with weakened immune systems could have an acute reaction if exposed to the virus.
What’s the UK government doing?
Advanced monitoring at airports is being carried out on direct flights from China.
A team of public health experts have been established at Heathrow to support anyone who feels unwell.
This is in addition to medical staff who are already permanently based at all UK airports.
The government has issued clinical guidance for the detection and diagnosis and infection prevention and control.
The UK is now one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new disease.
Healthcare professionals who are contacted by a patient with symptoms following travel to Wuhan have been advised to submit samples to PHE for testing.
Individuals will be treated in isolation, according to public health officials.
Is there a vaccine?
Currently there is no vaccine to protect people against the virus.
Other experts around the world are also looking into producing a vaccination.
Head of research at Inovio, Dr Kate Broderick, told the BBC that her team of scientists in San Diego, US, managed to “fully design DNA medicine” against the coronavirus in an unprecedented three hours.
However, they say it could be at least a year before it’s made available.
That’s because it has to be tested on animals before humans which could take months.