- February 12, 2020
Brighton residents and visitors may be wide eyed at the number of national broadcasters reporting on the coronavirus cases in the city. Brighton has been named in national media as the “epicentre” of the UK outbreak of the virus and also the “ground zero” where the first British patient, a Hove resident, was first identified. Brighton cases have also been mentioned in international scientific journals. The advice of this column is to keep everything in perspective and to always stick with the facts, rather than fear.
The virus has been renamed, as scientists spread more information regarding flu pandemics. The disease caused by the virus has been named Covid-19. The virus is now known as SARS-CoV-2 which indicates that it is related to previous SARS coronaviruses. It appears to be a milder version – more is to be researched as the world does not yet know whether we are at the beginning, middle or end of this global outbreak.
Just the mention of SARS strikes even more fear into those who are worried by the global spread of the new coronavirus. SARS originated in 2002 and made a comeback in 2004 and a new strain of a SARS like coronavirus was identified in 2012 and became known as MERS. SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and MERS – Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. SARS related coronaviruses have the potential to cause a contagious and potentially life-threatening form of pneumonia. Normally, pneumonia carries a higher risk of mortality in those with compromised immunity such as the elderly and infirm.
This does not mean that everyone who contracts the infection dies, but it does mean that the chances of dying are higher than if you contracted a normal cold or flu virus. Globally influenza viruses which appear seasonally in every country have a mortality rate of under 1%. This still represents a huge number (between 250,000 – 500,000 deaths annually) due to the prevalence of flu.
The SARS virus identified in 2002 is globally cited as having a death rate of 9.6% meaning that of all the cases identified, 9.6% died of the disease. With MERS, the death rate was much higher at 34%.
The current, new strain of SARS like coronavirus has been cited as having a death rate of 2%. We are still in the midst of finding out more about the spread and effect of the virus. There are indications that the rate of infection is slowing down in China, the location of the majority of current cases. The numbers to date are over 45,000 infected globally with over 1,100 deaths. This is the global backdrop informing each country’s public health precautions. Update: On Wednesday 12th Feb, a spike of cases was reported in China, increasing the total to almost 60,000 infections and over 1,350 deaths. This was attributed to a broader identification of cases through clinical diagnosis.
How do you not panic when faced with global infection and mortality statistics, cases in your neighbourhood, and so many unknowns about the new virus? Keep stoic, and recognise that viruses have been with us for centuries. Each year, each of us battles a multitude of germs – whether bacterial, viral or fungal and we should each thank our hardy immune systems for keeping diseases at bay. Population immunity has not been built up yet for this novel coronavirus, so keeping aware of official public health advice is crucial.
Local MP, Caroline Lucas has called for more centralised and comprehensive advice to be given nationally. Public Health England (PHE) recently issued the following advice
The advice is that, if you travelled to the UK from any of the following countries in the last 14 days and are experiencing a cough, fever or shortness of breath, to stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild:
· Mainland China (for Wuhan and Hubei province)
· Republic of Korea
· Hong Kong
PHE said: “These areas have been identified because of the volume of air travel from affected areas, understanding of other travel routes and number of reported cases.”
If, however, you have travelled from Wuhan or Hubei Province to the UK in the last 14 days, you should immediately:
· Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu.
· Call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area.
In practice, PHE said this means “remaining at home for 14 days after arriving from Wuhan or Hubei Province (or elsewhere in China if you have symptoms) and not going to work, school or public areas.
For the general public, the overwhelming message is do not panic but be aware of normal hygiene rules with regard to respiratory viruses, and keep abreast of local and global news.
By Angi Mariani
(originator of Immunos v. Pathos)