What is Coronavirus and How to Protect Yourself Against Infection

The novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, has now spread to at least 11 countries, infected more than 2,000 people and killed 80 people.

But what is it?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people get infected with coronaviruses at one point in their lives, but symptoms are typically mild to moderate. In some cases, the viruses can cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

These viruses are common amongst animals worldwide, but only a handful of them are known to affect humans. Rarely, coronaviruses can evolve and spread from animals to humans. This is essentially what is happening right now in China.

Where did the virus come from?

Since the first people who were diagnosed with it went to the seafood and animal markets, officials are of the opinion that it has transferred from animals to humans. Some scientists are also of the opinion that it has originated from snakes: the two common ones in China (banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) and the Chinese cobra (Naja atra)) while others believe that it is uncommon for the virus to infect snakes.


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There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:


  • Wash your hands frequently and cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue to avoid the spread of germs
  • Avoid close contact with anyone that has a fever or cough
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, see a doctor right away and share your travel history with them
  • Avoid travel to China, especially the Hubei province
  • Continue to protect yourself from other viruses, such as the flu, by getting vaccinated

As a country, Pakistan has started screening for the virus among passengers travelling from China.

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