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A new form of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has been spreading from China to the world since January 2020 and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), has been considered an international health emergency since 30.01.2020. Hot spots today include China, South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran. The WHO considers this corona virus to be a potential pandemic: a pandemic is a disease that is spreading rapidly and affects entire countries and continents.
Corona virus - what is it?
Coronaviruses (CoV) trigger diseases in vertebrates and some can cross art barriers and pass on to humans. SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV were also coronaviruses that caused diseases in humans. These viruses exist worldwide and they spread mainly through droplet infections. Sick people show symptoms of respiratory diseases, infected people do not necessarily have signs of illness.
Vaccinations and special therapies against coronaviruses do not exist. The newly identified coronavirus 2019-nCoV is genetically related to SARS-CoV and also targets the same lung receptor (ACE2). The new virus is officially called SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2). The disease is called: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
How did the corona virus develop?
The first transfer to humans is unknown, an origin from the animal kingdom is considered probable. The virus is related to coronaviruses in bats, but not identical, as is coronaviruses from pangolins. The WHO was informed on December 31, 2019 of an accumulation of pneumonia cases in Wuhan. Two thirds of the 41 inpatients treated at that time were on the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a market with live and dead wild animals in the metropolis.
Where is the virus found?
The virus was found in the stool, in smears from the nose and throat, in the lung secretion, serum and blood, in the anus, saliva and urine. As a result, smear and droplet infections are possible.
The symptoms of the new coronavirus correspond to those of other respiratory diseases:
- To cough,
- Sore throat
- and fever.
Sometimes there is also diarrhea. Body aches and fatigue are also possible, comparable to a flu infection. Patients with a more severe course also suffered from shortness of breath and pneumonia. Serious cases show up as pneumonia, which affects both lungs.
How does a corona disease work?
In China, over 85 percent of people between the ages of 30 and 79 are affected. Over 80 percent of infections have a mild course. A severe course with pneumonia occurred in 14 percent. The death rate is around two percent. For the largest group of infected people - those who have no or only mild symptoms - there are currently insufficient studies.
How long does it take for the disease to break out?
The incubation period for cases in China is between one and 24 days, on average three days.
Corona virus - a deadly threat?
According to official Chinese information, corona has mainly died above the age of 80. More people with previous illnesses died than people who lacked them. More men died than women. The death rate in China is around two percent, lower in South Korea and possibly around 10 percent in Iran.
However, the number of people who are actually ill and died is unclear - at least in Iran, it is certainly much higher than the official numbers. There are hardly any medicines there, medical alcohol and disinfectants are sold out, the religious police consecutively visit sick people in their homes and thus spread the virus. Infected people are accommodated in mosques and sports stadiums because there is no more space in the hospitals. The situation in the affected regions of the country is out of control.
How big is the risk of infection?
In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute currently assesses the risk of becoming infected with the corona virus as “moderate”. It is expected that further cases will occur in Germany, imported by people who are in areas where the virus is rampant, such as Wuhan in China, northern Italy or Qom in Iran.
Further infections, infection chains and outbreaks in Germany are likely. In Germany there are now corona cases in almost all federal states. The RKI continuously provides information on the current number of cases on its website.
How do you protect yourself against the corona virus?
Corona is transmitted through droplet and smear infections. In order to avoid contagion, the following applies: wash your hands thoroughly, keep your distance from the sick, pay attention to the etiquette when sneezing and coughing, so as not to infect others in the event of an accident.
Wash your hands
Some adults will probably shake their heads at shaking hands ("We're not toddlers"). But most of the infections with pathogens run over the hands. Washing your hands thoroughly reduces the number of germs by up to 0.1 percent.
So wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, even if the skin does not appear dirty - viruses cannot be seen with the eye. Wash your hands when you get home, visit the toilet, change diapers, cough, sneeze, or blow your nose if you have had contact with waste and animals, if you have been in contact with people.
Always wash your hands before and after eating. Soap your hands thoroughly and think of the back of your hand, thumb and fingertips.
Cough and sneeze
Coughing or sneezing are ways to infect other people with coronavirus droplets. To avoid this, do not put your hand over your mouth, as is the label. This is how pathogens get into your hand, which you pass on to touched objects or shaking hands. However, it makes sense if you turn away from other people when coughing or sneezing and keep at least one meter away.
- It is best to sneeze or cough in a tissue and then throw it in a closed trash can.
- If you sneezed, coughed, or blew your nose, wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
- If there is no handkerchief, hold the crook of your arm in front of your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Do you need a face mask?
Respirators are sold out in many pharmacies because people want to use them to protect themselves from the corona virus. However, Mouth and Nose Protection (MNS) is not suitable to protect yourself from an infection, it is used to protect others from infection. Doctors use it during operations to prevent droplets from being released to patients.
In order to protect yourself, however, particle-filtering half masks (FFP) are suitable. These filter infectious particles from the air we breathe. In Germany, doctors currently think it is nonsense to wear respiratory protection.
The WHO even regards respiratory masks as questionable because they can create a false sense of security - until then, neglecting effective hygiene. This consists of washing your hands regularly, using disinfectants and keeping your distance from the infected.
Infection via imported goods?
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) considers infection by imported products to be unlikely - due to the known transmission routes, but also because the new corona virus is environmentally sensitive and therefore hardly adheres to surfaces.
What can you do?
Find out from the responsible health authority how the situation is on site. Qualified information can be found at the ministries for health and agriculture, the Robert Koch Institute and the Federal Center for Health Education. Under no circumstances trust unsecured statements that go around on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
- Pay attention to the precautions when coughing and sneezing.
- Touch your face as little as possible so that you do not absorb the virus through the mucous membranes of your face.
- Stay away from people who cough, sneeze, or visibly suffer from respiratory problems.
Corona and flu wave
A wave of influenza is currently rife in Germany. This is also a problem because many coronavirus symptoms are similar to those of the flu and as a result, sufferers do not know what they are dealing with. The Public Health Service (ÖGD) is trying to prevent corona and flu from coming together - this could overload the medical infrastructure.
What to do if you are suspected of being infected?
If you have had contact with a person who has been diagnosed with Corona, you must call the health department immediately, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not. You can find out which office is responsible at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
If you have symptoms that indicate an airway disease, you should definitely
- comply with the rules for coughing and sneezing,
- wash your hands thoroughly
- and call a doctor by phone and arrange an appointment with them.
Important: Do not go to the open consultation hour as there is a risk that you will infect other people in the event of an infection. If you come from a designated risk area such as Northern Italy or Qom / Tehran, then first avoid unnecessary contacts and stay at home if possible. Follow these precautions even if you have no symptoms.
To identify the corona virus, there is a test (RT-PCR) that leads to a result over the course of a day. Faster tests such as RT-PCR / microarray are already available, but are not yet being used extensively or are currently being developed.
Slow down the spread
In Germany, the goal is to delay the spread of the virus in order to prepare, analyze the virus, identify risk groups, protect particularly affected groups, provide space in hospitals and find medication. In addition, each day the spread of the virus is delayed approaches the point at which a vaccine is likely to be developed.
The public health service (ÖGD) focuses on early detection of individual infections and thus preventing infection. The best way to curb the spread is to treat infected people quickly and isolate them from healthy people.
What happens if Corona continues to spread?
If there are cases in Germany that cannot be derived from a known case, this shows that long-term spread cannot be avoided. This changes the strategy to combat the spread, and protection then focuses more on people who are most severely affected by serious illnesses - for example, previous illnesses, a weakened immune system or old age.
Coronavirus - travel warnings
Official warning is given of trips to the Chinese province of Hubei, where the outbreak of Corona disease originated. The Federal Foreign Office also generally advises against trips to China if they are not necessary - exceptions are Hong Kong and Macao. Lufthansa has stopped flights to Iran and mainland China (until April 24).
Travelers from Iran to Germany have to fill out an exit card on the plane and leave an address at which they can be reached within the next 30 days - if people were infected on the plane, this can prevent further spreads. Flight data continues to be collected from passengers from China, South Korea, Japan and Italy - the airlines have to provide health information for all passengers entering Germany from these countries.
Anyone who travels from China to Germany must provide information on their place of residence in China, the contact persons and their own state of health on the “Air Transport Exit Card”.
There are no travel bans to Italy, although the number of cases there is increasing. However, affected regions in Italy are closed. Italy travelers and people who come into contact with Italy travelers are well advised to pay attention to possible symptoms.
Which age groups are affected?
In China, 75 percent of the cases are middle-aged and older adults between 30 and 69 years, the average age is 51 years. People over the age of 60 have a higher risk of developing the disease than younger people. The death rate is highest among those over 80 years of age.
In contrast, the disease occurs relatively rarely in children and adolescents and is usually mild, with serious illnesses being the exception. According to current data, pregnant women are not expected to experience a worse course of the disease than women who are not pregnant.
Can mothers transmit the virus to fetuses?
So far, there is no evidence that mothers can infect their fetuses in the womb. Infections in infants are possible, but the known cases were mild.
Corona vaccination in sight?
So far, there is no vaccine against the coronavirus. The director of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in the United States, Anthony Fauci, suspects that it can take another one to one and a half years before such a vaccine is ready for use. The chair of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, expects a vaccine at the earliest in 2021.
The University of Hong Kong is providing a possible test phase vaccine derived from the flu vaccine. Again, it takes months for animal and human studies to finish. The Galilee Research Institute (MIGAL) in Israel is developing a vaccine against the new corona virus based on an existing corona vaccine for a virus variant that affects poultry.
There is reasonable hope that a vaccine can be developed quickly since projects for vaccines against related coronaviruses already exist, for example against the rampant SARS virus in 2002/2003. Until a vaccine is developed, the medical methods are prevention, diagnosis, treating the symptoms and containing the disease. Medicines used are antibiotics, painkillers and contrast agents.
Are cities cordoned off?
So far there is no plan to cordon off cities in Germany to prevent the virus from spreading. Infected people are isolated and treated, contact persons are in quarantine at home. Several international trade fairs such as the book fair in Leipzig were canceled due to Corona. In the German Infection Protection Act (IfSG) there are a variety of ways to contain infections, such as the closure of individual schools or the closure of entire cities in an emergency.
Are borders closed?
There is currently no plan to close the German borders. If there is a serious threat to public security, border controls are possible under the Schengen Agreement. Such controls must not take longer or be more extensive than is necessary to restore public security.
Coronavirus Germany - case numbers
On March 2, 2020, 157 infections with the new corona virus were confirmed in Germany, most of them in North Rhine-Westphalia (90), Bavaria (26), Baden-Würtemberg (20) and Hesse (10). Most other federal states have isolated cases or only a few sufferers. Since infected people often show no symptoms, the real number of those affected is probably higher.
Corona spreads worldwide. China remains the most affected, as are South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran. With the presence of Iranian soldiers in Syria and Iraq, it is highly likely that Corona will also spread to these countries.
On March 4, 2020, the number of infected people in China was over 80,000 and the number of deaths was 2,983. In the rest of the world, the official number of infected was 13,100 (215 deaths) on that date, including 5,328 in South Korea, 2502 in Italy and reportedly 2,336 in Iran. Local doctors, however, are raising the alarm that the real number of people infected and dead in Iran would be many times over and the situation is out of control.
Germany has so far had no deaths. You can find information on the current number of cases worldwide on the WHO website.
Corona - risk areas
Risk areas where there is an increased risk of the virus continuing to spread from person to person are the province of Hubei with the city of Wuhan in China, the provinces of Qom and Tehran in Iran, Italy in Lombardy and the city of Vo in the province Padua and Emilia-Romagna. In South Korea, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province is a danger zone.
Preparation in Germany?
Germany has a good infrastructure to treat those infected with the new virus. These include specialty clinics that are at the forefront in international comparison. The reporting system, the warning system and the pandemic plans have been drawn up. The Robert Koch Institute is in constant contact with international authorities, is informed about the current situation, evaluates it and publishes the results on its website.
Corona's Forum Info
The Robert Koch Institute offers data and facts on epidemiology, diagnostics, prevention and control. Hygiene tips and answers to common questions about the new disease can also be found at the Federal Center for Health Education. Stay up to date with the latest information from the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG). For global information about the corona virus, contact the World Health Organization (WHO). (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
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ICD-Codes for this illness: U07.1ICD-Codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.