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Coronavirus outbreak: the key scientific questions answered - MW

Currently, the Covid-19 coravavirus has spread to six continents - only Antarctica is currently not infected - and has caused more than 85,000 cases of respiratory disease, of which nearly 3,000 have died. The spread of the disease, which first appeared in Hubei province in central China in early 2020, has also triggered widespread financial alarms over the past week, with the stock market suffering a bad week. most since the 2008 global financial crisis.

Covid-19 is currently an epidemic in many parts of the globe and is intended to have a major impact on the health of the planet. Here we answer some key questions about the disease and its effects.

Most doctors were expecting the next major virus outbreak to involve a strain of influenza. How is Covid-19 different from flu virus?
Both Covid-19 and influenza are respiratory illnesses and are spread by droplets that can survive in the air and on the surface for short periods. However, this strain of coronavirus causes fever and dry cough but does not trigger a runny nose or sneeze, as often happens with the flu.

So, what is the best defense against viruses? Specifically, how helpful is the mask?
Doctors say there is little evidence that the mask protects the wearer from infection. Instead, they advise people to wash their hands often, clean work surfaces and doorknobs and try to avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

What plans have been prepared to prevent the possible Covid-19 epidemic in the UK?
A major concern is that the rapidly increasing number of infected people can overwhelm hospitals and surgeons when the virus spreads and people are increasingly worried that they might be infected. Care of individuals in hospitals with other serious conditions may be affected. Consequently, plans have been established for the disease engineer by quarantining cases and trying to limit the number of infected people in contact with uninfected individuals. This will slow the spread of the disease. Covid-19 cases will then appear for a longer period of time and will not suddenly cause chaos in hospitals.

When might we expect a vaccine to be ready?
Researchers have already begun work on a vaccine, but few believe one will be ready for at least another year. Certainly it will be too late to help deal with any UK epidemic that may emerge in the next few weeks.

Will it be possible to eradicate Covid-19, or could it reappear regularly in future?
The World Health Organization and the Chinese government both say it will be possible to eradicate the virus. Not every scientist agrees, however. “I would not be surprised if we now have a virus that we will have to deal with forever,” says Prof Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University. “However, in such cases the first major outbreak is always the worst one. After that it should settle down and become part of a regular repertoire of winter viruses, I would imagine.”

Is it possible the warmer weather may bring relief?
Some observers have pointed to the fact that Africa has relatively few cases of Covid-19 and that this may be a response to hotter conditions there. The virus cannot take the heat, in other words.

Most scientists counsel caution, however. “The disease has only just arrived in Africa and it is far too early to tell how it will behave there,” says Woolhouse. “We will just have to wait and see.”

What are your chances of surviving if you become infected?
Most figures suggest that around 1% to 2% of people will die after being infected with Covid-19, though that figure could decline as more and more cases in a region are recognised. Scientists are also clear about those who are most at risk from Covid-19: at the moment, it appears that the elderly are most at risk.


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