What is the outbreak about?
From what ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control), national and international agencies currently know, the outbreak is caused by a novel coronavirus. There are still many unknowns regarding to the virulence and pathogenicity of the virus, the severity of affected patients, its transmission patterns, reservoir and source of infection. Epidemiological analyses available to date are also limited which leads to many uncertainties on the characteristics and the dynamic of the outbreak.
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses were identified in the mid-60s and are known to infect humans and a variety of animals (including birds and mammals). This family of viruses are known to cause illness in humans ranging from the common cold to more severe or even fatal diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
There is currently limited information about the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of the infection caused by COVID-19. Although the data available to ECDC is currently very scarce (see e.g. open source platform nextstrain.org which visualises phylogenetic analysis and relation between the nCoV and SARS and other beta-coronaviruses). This novel coronavirus seems genetically closely related to the 2003 SARS virus and appears to have similar epidemiological characteristics.
What are the symptoms and treatment options?
Even if severe and fatal infections have been observed, human infections with common coronaviruses are mostly mild and asymptomatic, resembling those of a common cold (cough, fever, runny nose, etc.). These viruses are able to cause lower respiratory tract infections and pneumonia in humans.
Are vaccines and treatments available?
There are currently no vaccines against coronaviruses.
There is not specific treatment for this disease so the clinical approach is symptomatic-based on the patient’s clinical condition. Moreover, supportive care (e.g. supportive therapy and monitoring – oxygen therapy, fluid management, empiric antimicrobials) for infected persons can be highly effective.
What is the risk of this outbreak spreading further?
Without implementation of appropriate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures at the point of care of persons under investigation, there is a moderate likelihood of outbreaks in destination countries. In the past, systematic implementation of infection prevention and control measures were effective in controlling both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.