How deadly is the new virus? • Does he have treatment? • Who should be particularly worried about him? • Is it safe to travel to China? • Professor Shai Ashkenazi, infectious disease expert, answers
Immunodeficiency virus // Photo: AP
What do we know about the virus?
The virus discovered in China belongs to the Corona virus family. It is a family of viruses, some species of which are known to cause disease in humans (mainly upper respiratory tract infections), but there are also in this family species that have hitherto been restricted to animals. In the current event, as it was in the past with the outbreak of the SARS virus and as is the case with influenza pandemics, there is probably some genetic change in the animal-derived virus. According to the experts, this is the cobra snake. Following these genetic changes, the virus has crossed the "species barrier" - that is, it has become capable of infecting humans. Obviously this has to do with the animal market in Wuhan. The experts isolated the cobra snake virus. In China it is common to eat cobra meat, and it may have passed through another mammal that is an intermediate factor.
￼ Is the virus particularly deadly or dangerous?
This is a new type of corona virus that humans did not recognize, and is therefore relatively deadly. It is reportedly deadly at about five percent (42 deaths from more than 1,300 patients), while other corona viruses do not have as high mortality. Nowadays, when there is no vaccine for the virus and there is actually no effective treatment, the main way to stop the epidemic is early detection of patients with early disease stage and respiratory isolation to prevent infecting more people.
It is important to note that the data so far indicates that there is infection from person to person, which may determine the fate of this outbreak.
Who should fear?
By definition of the World Health Organization (also adopted by the Ministry of Health) - anyone who is in the affected area of China and has signs of respiratory disease, cough, shortness of breath and fever, must be isolated until examined and then recovered.
￼ Is there a treatment for the corona virus?
There are currently no means of treating patients, except for isolation and supportive care such as cough reduction and respiratory distress. If the outbreak continues, a virus vaccine may be developed within a few months.
￼ Should trips to the east or countries where patients have been discovered be avoided?
Right now the focus is in China and surrounding areas. It is always appropriate to consider the risk of infection versus the need for travel. If the need is not essential - you should reconsider your trip. The Ministry of Health's recommendation is to avoid travel to Hubei Province, China. As for other countries in the East, if anyone has to travel - I don't think they should avoid it altogether, but it is advisable to avoid crowds with many people.
The author is an expert on infectious diseases, chair of the Israeli Association of Pediatrics and dean of the Ariel University School of Medicine
Brought to print: Middel Yasur Beit Or