WHO: What to note about coronavirus

At least 5,374 people have died from a new coronavirus with over 142,896 cases confirmed globally following an outbreak in the central city of Wuhan-China. 70,923 people have recovered from the virus.

The virus can spread before symptoms show up according to Chinese authorities and that its incubation period can range from one to 14 days.

What is coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

These viruses were originally transmitted between animals and people. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

The name coronavirus comes from the Latin word corona, meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus is reminiscent of a solar corona.

What are the symptoms?

According to the WHO, signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

The incubation period of the coronavirus remains unknown. Some sources say it could be between 10 to 14 days.

How deadly is it?

WHO says the virus may not be as deadly as other types of coronavirus such as SARS, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide during a 2002-03 outbreak that also originated from China.

MERS, which did not spread as widely, was more deadly, killing a third of those it infected.

The recent case of fear for the virus was in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday where one Kenya Airways passenger was quarantined at Kenyatta National Hospital after she arrived from Wuhan in China.

No deaths have been reported outside China.

Where did the virus originate?

Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of the virus, which they say came from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was also traded illegally.

The WHO also says an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak.

Snakes – including the Chinese krait and the cobra – may be the source of the newly discovered virus, according to Chinese scientists.

The coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 136 countries and territories around the world and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess Cruise ship harboured in Yokohama, Japan).

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Lawrence Baraza is a prolific writer with competencies in Digital Media, Print, and Broadcast. Baraza is also a Communication Practitioner currently spearheading Digital content on Metropol TV's Digital Desk.

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