Novel coronavirus is no cause for panic

The world-wide response to the coronavirus that started in China is alarming. Why is that when the mortality rate is less than a quarter of that of the 2003 SARS outbreak?

It seems the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, has provided an ideal opportunity for the World Health Organization, national health systems and national governments to try out new protocols.

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The outbreak and response to it makes daily headlines. Should we be worried?

Health officials assured Manitobans on Tuesday, Jan. 28, we have no known cases of 2019-nCoV. In a news conference, Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen and Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer discussed Coronavirus preparedness on Jan. 28.

With no direct flights from Winnipeg to China, we were told that Manitoba is relatively safe. Nonetheless, Manitoba health officials are prepared.

Never in history have we seen a near 60 million people (as of Jan. 29) quarantined. It would have been an impossibility just a few years ago. New political ground is also being broken as countries puncture the quarantine envelope to bring home their citizens from the epicentre of the outbreak.

What is all the fuss about? Well, 2019-nCoV is new, it can spread from a sneeze or cough, takes up to 14 days for symptoms to develop and apparently healthy people can carry/spread the virus.

Slowing the spread of 2019-nCoV gives scientists time to get to know what the virus is capable of and to work on a treatment and a vaccine.

A jump of 1,000 more ill in 24 hours (Jan.28 – 29) can make headlines and while I am not an epidemiologist, those statistics aren’t alarming. The death rate is also not alarming. However, the official response is enormous.

Wednesday’s report of about 130 deaths out of 6,000 sick with 2019-nCoV, that means that one in 46 people died (less that 2%); 45 of 46 have recovered. Compare that to a fatality rate of 14% for SARS.

Keeping this new coronavirus in perspective, each year in Canada, it is estimated that influenza causes approximately 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths according to a public health website. As of Jan. 11, there were 12,168 confirmed cases of influenza.

New cases of 2019-nCoV will continue to pop up in more countries including Canada (currently reporting three cases). The horse is out of the barn. The death toll will, of course, rise.

Should we be scared? Should we buy medical masks? A mask could come in handy for any flu outbreak, as well as a wraparound eye shield and disposable gloves if you plan on being around people with this or any virus. Viruses flourish on mucous membranes including in the eyes.

Manitoba’s health officials advised: If you have travelled to China recently and develop a cough, fever and shortness of breath, tell your doctor. There is a test for the 2019-nCoV and it is a reportable disease.

To keep any viruses at bay, Dr. Roussin advised frequent handwashing.

If you develop flu symptoms, stay home. Rest. Don’t spread it.

 

© Virden Empire-Advance