pidchinese virus epidemic: what are the real risks in France and how to protect yourself?

The outbreak of the new nCov coronavirus in China at the end of 2019 is spreading. In the face of growing concern, we are taking stock of what we know and the precautions to be taken.

It’s been a month since an outbreak began in China. It is expressed by flu-like symptoms, but does not even have the same genetic code: “nCov-2019” is a new coronavirus.

Many laboratories are currently working to better understand it in order to establish more effective treatments and, ultimately, a vaccine. Concern continues to grow about the epidemic that is now spreading beyond China’s borders. The population is asking itself many questions, from “Is this virus really dangerous? “to” how do we risk catching him? ».

Here are some answers, given the current knowledge about nCov.

Map of China by number of recorded nCov cases as of January 26, 2020 (the darker the purple, the more cases: the epicenter of the Wuhan region in the center of the country is clearly visible).

What is the origin of this virus?

On 27 January 2020, the death toll was 80 people dead and 2,700 infected. Cases have been reported in the United States Australia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and other countries. France is also concerned: three patients have been hospitalized as confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. They’ve been placed in solitary.

As a reminder, the epicentre of the epidemic is the city of Wuhan in central China. The most likely trail is a strange market, more or less legal, where live animals were found: bats, birds, marmots, snakes. One of the most serious studies suggests a mutation of a virus in bats, which would then pass to snakes and then to humans.

What are the symptoms of the Chinese virus?

While it probably all started with animal-to-human transmission, human-to-human transmission has since been established. There is clear evidence that medical personnel have even been contaminated in China. Symptoms: fever and breathing difficulties such as coughing. When the coronavirus causes a “severe condition” in the patient, respiratory distress is increased and may be accompanied by renal failure or even multi-visceral failure.

The first symptoms are very similar to those of the flu, in the middle of winter, when seasonal flu cases are common. Another difficulty in diagnosis is that the incubation time can be up to 14 days. It is therefore probable – we say probable, not certain – that patients can be affected by nCov without yet showing symptoms, while still being contagious.

Just because you have flu-like symptoms doesn’t mean you have nCov

In conclusion, having flu-like symptoms similar to those described for the coronavirus does not make you a suspect case, far from it. This does not mean that everyone, even without symptoms, should not follow basic rules of hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease.

  • The important thing to remember: nCov symptoms are classic, close to the flu. So just because you have a cough, fever, and runny nose, that doesn’t mean you’ve caught nCov. The probability is even close to zero at the moment.

Is Chinese coronavirus dangerous?

The dangerousness and even lethality of the coronavirus is now quite low. Official figures currently indicate 80 deaths out of 2,700 infected within a month, which is not a worrying proportion of lethality per se. The people who react most severely to the contamination had a weakened immune system beforehand. So it turns out that, despite the panic, nCov is no more dangerous than seasonal flu or measles. While the number of deaths can be frightening, it should also be remembered that many infected people have already recovered.

  • Read: New virus in China: should we really be worried?

The uncertainty factor for the danger of nCov is the risk of mutation. The more a virus infects hosts of the same type of organism, the more it gets used to it. He can then mutate and see his virulence increase. Containing the spread through isolation and quarantine measures is therefore an absolute health emergency… to which China is responding by placing millions of people in quarantine near the outbreak of the epidemic. In any case, any projection is useless for the moment, anticipatory modelling is in progress.

Coronavirus is still less dangerous than seasonal flu.

  • The important thing to remember: no, the virus itself is not dangerous for the vast majority of the population at this time. But if he mutates, his virulence could increase. Good health precautions therefore limit its spread and therefore its potential dangerousness.

How is the Chinese virus transmitted?

It is probably about the infectivity of nCov that we see the most rumours on social networks and, of course, the most concern. If you have flu-like symptoms similar to those related to nCov, but have not returned from Wuhan and have not been close to anyone returning from Wuhan, then the likelihood of you being infected or affected by the coronavirus is more than ultra-small. Right now, only this situation could make you a “suspect case”.

As for human-to-human contamination, and therefore the risk of catching coronavirus when one does not belong to the situation described above, current knowledge postulates that only contamination by sputum is possible. This means that someone with the virus would have to sneeze, cough or talk to you within one metre of your face. The risk also arises if there is “close contact” with someone who is a suspect case, e.g. sharing the same household.

No, you won’t be contaminated with an Aliexpress package from China…

Given these vectors of contagion, there is no risk of catching nCov by receiving an Aliexpress parcel, or any other platform that facilitates the sending of parcels from China. This idea, which we have seen spreading on social networks in recent days, has no basis.

  • The important thing to remember is that in order to present a real risk of being affected by nCov, one must have returned from China and have been in contact with the outbreak; and, possibly, have been in direct contact with someone in this situation – but apart from medical personnel in China who have been in direct and prolonged contact with the sick, no other such case has yet been scientifically attested. It is therefore likely that the coronavirus currently has a low capacity to spread.

What precautions should I take to protect myself from the virus?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus and have just returned from the province to which Wuhan belongs, then do not go to the doctor, do not call a doctor, and do not go to the emergency room. The aim is to limit any risk of propagation. You have to dial 15 (the EMS). You will be given a questionnaire about the symptoms and the situation and, if there is any real doubt, you will be taken care of.

  • Read: Chinese virus: “The challenge is to be vigilant without being catastrophic”.

If you don’t have any symptoms, you don’t need to wear a protective mask, its effectiveness in this area has not been scientifically proven. However, if you have symptoms such as a cough, wearing a mask will always help to limit the spread of any virus you may have.

Strictly follow the hygiene rules of any epidemic.

In general, symptoms or not, and as for a classic flu epidemic, the Ministry of Health recommends following strict hygiene rules:

  • Wash your hands regularly, not just when you come out of the toilet, with soap and/or hydro-alcoholic gel.
  • Sneeze into your elbow, taking care to cover your mouth and nose when sneezing.
  • Use disposable tissues (and wash your hands afterwards).
  • The important thing to remember is that if you have symptoms when you return from China, and more specifically from Wuhan, do not go to the emergency room or to the doctor, but call an ambulance (15). More generally, everyone is called upon to follow strict hygiene rules very rigorously, both at work and at home.

The balance sheet figures given in this article are those up to date at the time of publication of the article, i.e. January 27, 2020 at 12:40 p.m.

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