What You Need to Know About Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19


Do you have flashbacks of World War Z or Train to Busan movies with the current Coronavirus outbreak? You are not alone.

With thousands of confirmed cases infected with the new coronavirus and a over 100 reported deaths, we understand how it can be alarming especially to those with very young children or elderly parents.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are named for the spikes that protrude from their membranes, which resemble the sun’s corona. They can infect both animals and humans and can cause illnesses of the respiratory tract, ranging from the common cold to severe conditions.

What is Novel Coronavirus?

Novel coronavirus is a virus from the coronavirus family. It’s a close relative of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 which spreads to human through camels, and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which originated in bats, first reported in China in 2003 and killed nearly 800 people around the world.

Does this mean that animals were first infected and transmitted the virus to humans? In the case of the SARS virus, for example, the bats did not show any visible signs of disease. They are likely natural reservoirs of SARS-like coronaviruses. Simply put, the virus thrives in the bat’s body without harming the bats but when transmitted to humans, it is harmful since our body is not the virus’ natural host.


Wuhan’s novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus that has never been identified by scientists on humans. The virus has not been given an official name by the World Health Organisation (WHO) but it has an 89% similarity to the SARS virus. It takes time to learn about a new virus that comes out.

Where did the Novel Coronavirus originate?

The virus started in a market selling live poultry, seafood and wild animals in Wuhan in Hubei province, a city of 11 million people. Hence, the term “Wuhan Virus”. From 31 December 2019, it has since spread to other major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

How did the Wuhan Virus emerge?

The WHO states the most likely source of Wuhan Virus is an animal, and there is some limited human-to-human transmission between those in close contact. The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife in Wuhan.


How is the virus transmitted?

Novel Coronavirus is transmitted through the air by coughing and sneezing, by close personal contact such as touching an infected person, and from touching a surface with the virus on it before touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

What are the symptoms?

Infected patients with the Wuhan virus suffered symptoms of pneumonia such as fever and difficulty with breathing, and there were signs of abnormal pulmonary infiltration in the patients’ lungs.

The early symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Runny nose

Late symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

The illness causes lung lesions and pneumonia while milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold.

How long does it take from exposure to the onset of symptoms?

The incubation period is believed to be about two weeks. Which means that if you have travelled to Wuhan on 1 January 2020, you will not experience the symptoms immediately. Early signs will show around 14 January 2020.

How is it treated?

Since it is a new strain, no drugs are approved for the Wuhan coronavirus. The main treatment regimen is:

  • Supportive care
  • Making sure the patient is getting enough oxygen
  • Using a ventilator to push air into the lungs if necessary for those with difficulty breathing
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids for the immune system to recover and fight the disease


How can we prevent the spread of this virus?

There is no vaccine for the virus. But the Ministry of Health (MOH) has advised preventive steps to avoid the spread of infection:

  1. Observe personal hygiene.
  2. Practise frequent hand washing with soap before handling food or eating, after going to the toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing.
  3. Be socially responsible, if you are sick, wear a face mask, avoid social contact and visit a doctor as soon as possible.
  4. When you cough and sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or with your arm (not with your palm).
  5. Avoid contact with live animals including poultry and birds.
  6. Cook meat and eggs thoroughly.
  7. Avoid crowded places and close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness.
  8. If you plan to visit a country where this virus is found such as China, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States, be careful and take care of your health.
  9. Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell.

The first confirmed case of the Wuhan virus in Singapore announced by the MOH on 23 January may stop you from travelling to Singapore for any Chinese New Year celebrations during this long weekend.

You might ask; “Should I wear a mask?”. If you have a respiratory infection, wearing a mask helps protect the people around you from illness. A surgical mask may somewhat protect you from infection in a crowd, but, generally, they are not effective enough to filter all the air you are breathing in.

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