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The Coronavirus- What We Know so Far

The Coronavirus

How Dangerous is It?

There has been widespread concern and even anxiety about the rapid spread of the coronavirus across several continents. So how worried should we be? Whilst the trajectory of this outbreak is impossible to predict, and the situation is rapidly evolving, here is what we know so far about the current outbreak.

Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) have long been considered inconsequential, causing the “common cold” in otherwise healthy people. However, the emergence of the SARS-CoV in the early 2000s and MERS-CoV in 2012 caused global epidemics with alarming morbidity and mortality.

The current outbreak is caused by a novel (new) strain from the coronavirus family. This virus is so new that it does not yet have a name- it is currently being labelled by the WHO as the 2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV.

The virus is thought to have originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, a central Chinese city. Currently, all confirmed cases of the virus in Australia are in individuals who have recently visited Wuhan. There have not been any human-human transmission occurring in Australia, although such cases are expected, and have occurred in China.

As at 29/1/20, the virus had been responsible for approximately 130 deaths. In all of these cases, the individual had suffered from an underlying condition, was elderly or frail, and therefore their immune system had a reduced ability to mount an appropriate response.

The main causes for concern relate to what is not known about the virus:

  • It is not known how virulent this strain of coronavirus is
  • It is not known how it is transmitted or how long it lives on surfaces; however, it thought that coming within a 1-metre radius of an infected person increases the likelihood of transmission
  • It is not known if the person is able to transmit the virus before symptoms appear

Thankfully, the 2019-nCoV appears to have a much lower fatality rate than previous coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS and MERS, or other deadly viral diseases such as Ebola. The current estimated fatality rate of the 2019-nCoV is 2.17%(1). Individuals who have died from this coronavirus are individuals who would have been at similar risk from a common seasonal influenza, which helps to contextualise the danger from this outbreak. However, it is possible that the virus could mutate and become more deadly.

For perspective, the mortality rate of SARS was 10%, MERS was 36%, whilst the Ebola virus killed half of all individuals infected.(2)

Avoiding It

Current recommendations to help prevent the spread of the virus are common-sense ones which are applicable to viruses such as influenza, and especially apply to people travelling or working in healthcare. The WHO recommendations(3) include:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing with a tissue or flexed elbow. Avoid coughing into your hands. Throw the tissue into a closed bin
  • Avoid close contact with individuals who display cold and flu-like symptoms
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. (A face mask may help you to remember to not touch your face)
  • Avoid travel if you have a fever or a cough
  • Avoid travel if you are immune-compromised or have a chronic illness, or if you are regularly in close contact with individuals with such conditions
  • If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early, and share your travel history with your health care provider; let your doctor know before you present to their clinic that you have respiratory symptoms so that you are not kept waiting with other patients
  • If you feel unwell during your travels, notify your travel crew
  • Eat only well-cooked food while travelling

What Symptoms to Look Out For

The Federal Government has issued the following guidelines(4) on identifying if someone may have a coronavirus infection.

‘If the patient satisfies the epidemiological AND clinical criteria (listed below), they are classified as a suspected case:

Epidemiological criteria

  • Travel to Wuhan City (Hubei Province, China) in the 14 days before the onset of illness, OR
  • Travel to an area with evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, or a declared outbreak, within 14 days before onset of illness, OR
  • Close contact in 14 days before illness onset with a confirmed case of 2019-nCoV.

Clinical criteria

  • Fever or history of fever (?38 °C) and acute respiratory infection (sudden onset of respiratory infection at least one of: shortness of breath, cough or sore throat), OR
  • Severe acute respiratory infection requiring admission to hospital with clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (i.e. even if no evidence of fever).’

Prevention is Better than Treatment

Because of the way viruses mutate, new ones will always develop from time to time. Some of these will be relatively mild, and others will be more virulent. Apart from supportive care and avoiding infected persons, there is very little that can be done medically to treat a virus. So the best defence against any virus (or any other infection) is to make sure that your own immune system is strong enough to deal with it quickly and effectively. There are many aspects to your immune system, so if you would like to boost yours or to have it assessed, please book in for a free Comprehensive Assessment. (Terms and conditions- the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.)

  1. https://www.health.gov.au/news/coronavirus-update-at-a-glance
  2. Email 29/1/20 from BioMedica Nutraceuticals
  3. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
  4. https://www.acupuncture.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-information-sheet-for-primary-and-community-health-workers.pdf