11:04 GMT04 August 2020
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    The 2019-nCov coronavirus outbreak continues to make headlines throughout the world. According to China’s National Health Commission, more than 24,000 people have been infected in the country. Outside of China, 159 confirmed cases of the virus have been recorded in more than 20 countries, Nearly 500 people, total, have died.

    Flu is much worse

    “The coronavirus belongs to the group of viruses that cause acute respiratory viral infection. The flu is considered the most dangerous, easiest to transmit and causes the largest number of deaths by disease caused by this group of viruses,” Olga Karpova, Doctor of Biological Sciences and Head of the Department of Virology of the Faculty of Biology at Moscow State University, said.

    “Every year, from 500 thousand to 2.5 million people die of the flu and its complications; and, of course, these figures can’t be compared with the deaths caused by the 2019-nCov coronavirus.”

    Animals are the source of disease

    It’s the third time in the 21st century when coronaviruses have made noise in the world. In 2002-2003, there was an outbreak of SARS caused by the SARS-CoV coronavirus. It also started in China, in the province of Guangdong. Of the 8,437 infected, 819 died: the mortality rate was almost 10%. For a long time, the Chinese authorities had been hiding the truth about the morbidity, which delayed the struggle of the world scientific and medical community against the growing epidemic. Then the WHO developed the basic principles of infection prevention, which are strictly implemented now, producing a positive effect.

    In 2012, another type of coronavirus, MERS, spread in the Middle East. Until 2015, 1,154 confirmed cases of the disease and at least 431 deaths have been recorded. “SARS, MERS, and the current coronavirus are zoonotic viruses, that is animals, in this case bats and also camels for MERS, are the natural reservoir for them,” Professor Karpova added.

    “It’s not the DNA molecules that encode the viruses’ genetic information, like in humans, but RNA molecules; mutations easily occur in them, allowing the virus to be transmitted from animals to humans and affect their airways and GIT.”

    Washing your hands is the main thing

    According to Olga Karpova, what are the prospects for the development of the 2019-nCov epidemic and how can we protect against it?

    “The measures taken by the WHO, China, Russia and other countries to prevent the epidemic's development are the right ones,” the scientist said.

    “They are aimed at preventing the virus from reaching less developed countries where there is no powerful sanitary and epidemiological base and ways to deal with epidemics. I don’t see any risk of pandemic. Coronaviruses are characterised by outbreaks followed by attenuation. I think that the disease will come to naught by late February - early March.”

    Speaking about means of protection, Karpova said that only the sick need to wear medical masks, the demand for which has skyrocketed, to prevent others from being infected.

    “As for healthy people, the mask only does harm, since it gets wet in 2 hours and starts attracting suspended particles, including the pathogenic agents of respiratory diseases. It’s very important to wash your hands using soap as often as possible, as well as using a hand sanitiser when outside. On the surface of objects, the virus lives no more than 2 hours. Therefore, any claims about the dangers of parcels and goods from China are not justified”, Olga Karpova concluded.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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