The virus has claimed at least 81 lives in China and infected more than 2750 worldwide, including five people in Australia, since it was discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
While the World Health Organization failed to declare an international public health emergency, scientists and health experts are quick to understand how this new virus is transmitted and how contagious it is.
They are also trying to determine how many people may have been infected with Wuhan’s coronavirus, but they don’t know it.
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“It is difficult to understand the mortality rate associated with this new virus at present, since we are only detecting serious cases in the initial stages of the epidemic, rather than the milder or asymptomatic cases,” Chinese scientist Lili Ren wrote in the Lancet medical journal, AFP reported.
Wuhan coronavirus is part of a family of viruses that originate in animals before spreading to humans. Some coronaviruses that have been found in humans have only caused mild cold-like symptoms.
But a coronavirus has occasionally been more severe, as in the case of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which caused 774 deaths in 8096 cases worldwide during the 2002/03 outbreak.
Chinese scientists wrote in the Lancet The symptoms of Wuhan coronavirus were similar to those of SARS.
A study of 41 early cases of the new virus found that all patients had pneumonia and most had a fever, AFP reported. Three quarters coughed and more than half had trouble breathing.
However, unlike SARS, they had no runny nose or sore throat and did not sneeze. The patients also had no stomach problems, such as diarrhea, which was observed in about a quarter of SARS cases.
The Australian Department of Health reports that symptoms may include fever, flu-like symptoms, such as cough, sore throat and headaches, and difficulty breathing.
“The symptoms can vary from mild illnesses to pneumonia,” the department said.
It is understood that people exposed to the virus may not show symptoms for up to a week.
It is believed that older people and people with underlying health problems are more affected.
The scientists also said that those infected with Wuhan’s coronavirus were “in a less serious condition than with SARS,” which had a mortality rate of 9.5 percent.
“At the moment, the mortality rate is less than five percent,” said Yazdan Yazdanpanah, head of infectious diseases at Paris Diderot University, about the new coronavirus.
Health authorities urge people to take precautions to reduce the risk of infection, such as washing their hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, cooking eggs and eggs well, and avoiding contact with wild or farm animals.
While the authorities compete to contain the spread of the killer virus, the medical director of Australia, Professor Brendan Murphy, said the risk to most Australians was generally low.
“The only risk if you have close family contact with someone who comes from China who is not well and that is quite unlikely,” he told ABC.
“There is no evidence of transmission from person to person outside of China. All cases outside of China seem to come from China and we are very well prepared in Australia.
“We have very strong public health response systems, as evidenced by the four cases identified yesterday.”
“It’s the flu season in China, and probably most people with those kinds of symptoms that are relatively nonspecific (fever is very prominent, cough, shortness of breath) don’t have this virus,” he said.
“That is why we are focusing our public health message in Australia to say that if you have come from that Chinese province of Hubei in the last two or three weeks and you are not feeling well, tell your doctor or the emergency department. Y
Tell them you’ve had that travel history and get tested.
“Most people will probably be negative, but we need to capture anyone who has come from China, particularly before they closed that area last Thursday.”
NSW Health has confirmed that three men, aged 30, 40 and 50, are being treated for the virus at Westmead Hospital in Sydney after arriving in January on different flights from China.
A fourth confirmed Australian case, in Victoria, involves a man in his 50s who returned from China last week. He was in Australia for six days before being diagnosed.
Airports around the world have begun to take precautions to cope with the anticipated influx of Chinese tourists traveling during the Lunar New Year holidays.
The world‘s busiest travel center, Dubai International Airport, said it will thermally examine all passengers arriving on direct flights from China and distribute information leaflets.