Author: Byron Devlin, with the summary written by Brooke James.
What is the coronavirus
The coronavirus is around every year, but usually doesn’t affect humans. The current strain of coronavirus is called 2019-nCoV, which is short for “2019 novel coronavirus.” It is just the third strain of coronavirus to cause severe symptoms in humans, with the two previous instances being MERS and SARS.
Where it originated
Coronaviruses originate in animals, such as camels, civets and bats, and are usually not transmissible to humans. But occasionally a strain of coronavirus mutates, allowing it to pass from animals to humans and then from human to human.
The first known cases of the current coronavirus strain have been traced to an animal market in Wuhan, China. It is said that, in December 2019, people became infected after coming in contact with live animals who carried the virus.
A mild case of the coronavirus causes fever, diarrhoea, body aches as well as respiratory symptoms: dry cough, difficulty breathing.
More severe cases, which are more common in older patients, can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.
How it spreads
Although this strain of coronavirus is considered highly infectious, it is thought to be less so than the one that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003. This belief is supported by the fact that most cases have been found in China, and so far international spread seems limited.
We are still developing an understanding of the current coronavirus, but health officials believe it can be passed from person to person via an exchange of fluids from the respiratory tract. This belief is based on the way multiple cases have occurred within families when family members spend prolonged time in close contact with an infected person.
Furthermore, there is emerging evidence in Wuhan that the virus can spread from one person to another to another, multiple times, much like the common cold. This belief is not confirmed, but global health officials are watching for in international cases in an attempt to confirm/deny it.
What you can do to protect your family from the coronavirus
General coronavirus prevention tactics
As previously discussed, the coronavirus is spread via an exchange of fluids from the respiratory tract. So how do you protect ourselves and our families from coming into contact with this airborne disease?
The World Health Organisation is recommending that people take these simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the virus:
- Frequently wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or a cough.
- Seek early medical help if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share your travel history with healthcare providers
- Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals, as well as surfaces that are in contact with animals, especially when visiting live markets in affected areas
- 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
Preventing the spread of coronavirus in Australian schools
Schools are notorious for the spread of illness. And with so many ‘snotty’ kids wiping their noses and coughing on each other, there is no wonder why this is the case. However, it is comforting to remember that the coronavirus is said to prefer older targets.
Healthy school children who travelled to China during the holidays would not be told to stay at home when classes return. An Australian chief health officer has explained that only children who have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus will be asked to stay at home
On the other hand, some private schools in Sydney have demanded that students returning from China get a doctor’s clearance before setting foot on campus.
Treating the Coronavirus
There is no approved vaccine or virus-specific treatments for the current coronavirus. As the illness is a virus rather than bacteria, antibiotics will not help.
It is suggested that you seek expert medical assistance if you think you may have contracted the illness. Doctors will help your body fight the virus, while various medication will help you manage the symptoms.
If you believe you may have caught the coronavirus, it is of paramount importance that you seek expert medical attention as soon as possible. If you do not seek help, you may become responsible for infecting the people closest to you.
With public schools across some Australian states set to return – albeit gradually – next week, Australia has hopefully seen the worst of COVID-19. Our island home has been very fortunate compared to many countries across the globe. We’ve worked hard, isolating ourselves and our families for many weeks to achieve this great result. Let’s continue to work together, by being mindful of social distancing and practising the hygiene rituals that have been instilled in the majority of businesses and households across the country (such as frequent hand washing, sanitising and the use of masks if you’re displaying flu-like symptoms). If we collectively continue at this rate, our lives should return to normal sooner rather than later, and in no time at all, this will all seem like a strange dream we once had!
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