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COVID-19: a virus from China that no one expected

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The coronavirus COVID-19 , about which no one knew anything at the beginning of 2020, became the most important topic of news releases in all countries. The first infected appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, presumably they caught an infection in the fish market.

The information changed every day: new people who got sick and became infected with the virus appeared, scientists tried to find the source of infection, studied the structure of the virus, and started creating a vaccine.

The situation surrounding the new coronavirus is commented on by the immunologist and hematologist, Professor Jean-Francois Rossi from the University of Montpellier and the Cancer Institute of St. Catherine.

What is known about the virus?

The previously unknown COVID-19 virus belongs to the coronavirus family. They circulate between animals, and some are capable of being transmitted from animals to humans .

Coronaviruses have already made themselves known loudly – representatives of this particular family are the causative agents of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and acute severe respiratory syndrome (SARS), better known as SARS. Outbreaks of these diseases were reported in 2012 and 2002, respectively.

However, coronaviruses are often the cause of fairly harmless diseases – a considerable proportion of SARS, which are accompanied by a runny nose, fever and other colds, are caused by certain coronaviruses.

Scientists already know a lot about the genome and structure of the virus. The genomes of COVID-19 and the virus that caused SARS were 79% similar. This gave reason to assume that the host cells infect these viruses in a similar way – this conjecture was subsequently confirmed.

The source of infection has not yet been discovered: in mid-January 2020, scientists did not exclude the possibility that the animal from which the first cases were infected was a snake . Now, researchers are more inclined to believe that bats are the natural reservoir of COVID-19.

How to recognize a disease?

Symptoms of a coronavirus infection caused by a new virus are generally similar to the usual symptoms of acute respiratory viral infections – patients have fever, respiratory symptoms (runny nose, cough), weakness and muscle pain.

Doctors do not yet have a single opinion on the length of the incubation period of the infection caused by COVID-19: at first they talked about two weeks, but recent data indicate that the incubation period can last almost a month.

All this time, a person does not experience any health problems, but at the same time is able to infect others.

The most accurate way to detect infection is now laboratory diagnostics – kits for analysis appeared very quickly and are now in service with doctors from many countries.

Is the virus really dangerous? What can be said about its infectiousness?

The virus that appeared in China quickly spread throughout the world. As of February 24, 2020, infected people were detected in more than 30 countries. The number of infected close to 80 thousand, and more than 2700 people died.

On January 30, the World Health Organization decided to declare a public health emergency of international concern. WHO experts assigned this status to the coronavirus epidemic, as they considered the spread of COVID-19 to be dangerous for people in all countries.

The status is subject to review in three months: it can be canceled or prolonged.

Scientists, analyzing the data on the spread of infection, were able to calculate the effectiveness of the transmission of the virus (R0) – the estimated number of people who can become infected after contact with the patient. The maximum indicator belongs to measles, which with R0 equal to 18, is considered the most contagious disease in the world.

The new coronavirus is less contagious – for him, this indicator, according to various estimates, is 2-4.6 points. Coronavirus mortality at the moment is presumably 3%.

What about risk groups? Who is more likely to become infected with the new coronavirus?

The World Health Organization analyzed the data on the majority of patients and concluded that anyone can become infected with COVID-19 , regardless of gender and age, and the average age of patients is 51 years.

For older people and those who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, coronavirus infection is more often fatal. In people with weakened immune systems, the virus penetrates the body more easily and multiplies more actively in it.

It is worth paying attention to the prevention of respiratory infections in general, while therapies and prevention of coronavirus infection are under development. Among them, the French immunologist identified the Russian drug “Polyoxidonium”, studied and described by his scientific group.

The mechanism of action of the drug is aimed at enhancing the functioning of the immune system, it increases the body’s resistance to local and generalized infections caused by viruses. The drug helps to strengthen the immune system, which may be significant when faced with a coronavirus infection, which is characterized by suppression of immunity.

“If I have access to this drug, I will prescribe it, especially to patients at high risk and to patients at the initial stage of the development of a respiratory viral infection. Due to its effect, Polyoxidonium can enhance the functioning of the immune system and, therefore, affect protection against any infection, especially a viral one, and therefore also against a new coronavirus, too, ”summarized Jean-Francois Rossi.

When can I get vaccinated against this virus and how to protect myself and loved ones?

There is currently no specific treatment for the infection caused by COVID-19, nor a vaccine that can protect against infection. Active development in the field of vaccine development is underway, but according to the most optimistic forecasts, it will be possible to use it no sooner than in a year.

Both WHO and Rospotrebnadzor recommend not to forget about hygiene – wash your hands and do not touch your face with dirty hands. Try not to be in crowded places, and avoid talking to people with obvious signs of a cold. In the event that you have found respiratory symptoms in yourself, consult a doctor to help identify the causative agent of the disease.


This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.

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