After the UAE cycling tour was cancelled last week, Coronavirus and specifically Covid-19 has been at the top of the news agenda. Now, multiple events across the UAE have been postponed or cancelled in light of the virus.
Numbers released this week put the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UAE at 21. The hope is that avoiding large gatherings of people in public will help limit the spread of the virus.
While the UAE confirmed its first case of the Wuhan coronavirus at the end of January, the Ministry of Health has insisted that the general public is not at risk.
Speaking via the WAM News Agency, the Ministry revealed that the virus had first been detected in a family arriving from Wuhan, China, but confirmed no other details.
“The health conditions of those infected is stable and under medical observation,” continued the statement. “We have taken all necessary precautions in accordance with recommendations from the World Health Organisation…. The public is not at risk.
What exactly is a coronavirus?
While 'coronavirus' is being used as a catch-all phrase during this particular outbreak, the title actually refers to a large family of respiratory viruses. Some, like the common cold, cause mild flu-like symptoms during the infection period, while other strains – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS), for example – have the potential to evolve into something deadly.
The strain that has been dominating headlines is called Wuhan-nCoV, named after the Chinese city in which it erupted. It’s believed to have originated in a seafood wholesale market, jumping from bats to snakes before infecting humans, according to analysis published in the Journal of Medical Virology.
At the time of writing, the virus has infected thousands and killed more than 80 people – all in Hubei Province – with tens of thousands currently under medical supervision across the globe. Coronavirus can spread before symptoms show, China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei said on Sunday, which makes limiting transmission between infected people tricky.
That being said, all cases outside China seem to be in people who have travelled from Hubei province or the surrounding area – and the most severe cases, where people have contracted viral pneumonia, have been among those with weakened immune systems.
What are the Wuhan coronavirus symptoms?
Those who have contracted the Coronavirus have sreported suffering mild flu symptoms. Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches and sore throat. Still, let this be a reminder to load up on vegetables and pop a vitamin pill, if nothing else.
Just how contagious the coronavirus is remains to be seen over the coming weeks, but procedures are in place to keep the UAE safe. The National Health Committee for International Health Regulations has stressed that the UAE is working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to track the global situation as it develops.
“We’re closely following the Chinese government’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. We’re confident in their ability to overcome this crisis,” His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, tweeted. “The UAE is ready to provide all support to China and cooperate with the international community to tackle this virus.”
How is the coronavirus transmitted?
The virus is transmitted in the same way as a regular flu virus, via people coughing and sneezing, touching someone who is infected, especially their hands and face, or touching something like a keyboard or door handle that has also been touched by someone with the infection.
In response to mounting concerns that more cases will emerge due to the sheer volume of international flights leaving and entering the country every single day, Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports have introduced thermal screening procedures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, screening passengers from China on arrival at both airports.
While there’s no known treatment for this strain of coronavirus, and no vaccine that prevents it – though three programmes for the latter are now underway, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has confirmed – public and private health entities across the UAE have been fully briefed on ways to anticipate the virus and stop it from spreading should any cases emerge.
How can you avoid the coronavirus?
As they say, prevention is better than a cure. And that’s especially true when there is no known cure. So how can you protect yourself? The same way you would deal with an outbreak of office flu. Frequently clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water, the World Health Organisation recommends, and avoid contact with anyone who has a fever or cough.
To keep your digital footprint as clean as your hands, stick to trusted news sources. On Sunday, a screenshot of an internal hospital email was circulated widely on WhatsApp claiming that a Wuhan-nCoV case had been detected in Abu Dhabi, with the patient said to have been hospitalised at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Turns out, the email concerned a prevalent (and very treatable) coronavirus, rather than the deadly Wuhan-nCoV strain currently causing global concern. “We would urge people to only share confirmed news from official sources, to avoid causing unnecessary public concern,” the hospital said in a statement.