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Contactless payments could stop you catching coronavirus from contaminated bank notes

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Shoppers should pay using contactless cards to avoid catching the coronavirus from a dirty banknote, health experts have said.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization said contactless cards could ‘reduce the risk of transmission’.

Notes change hands hundreds or even thousands of times during circulation and can pick up all manner of dirt and bugs as they’re passed around.

Experts say the coronavirus could latch onto currency in the same way that it is able to live on hard surfaces like doorknobs, handrails and toilet handles.

So using contactless cards – which mean someone only has to touch their own card, which is never handled by anyone else – could protect them from it spreading.

The advice comes as employers have reportedly started to ban hot-desking, when people share desks; health officials may start to urge people not to shake hands; and, in France, ministers have told people to stop doing ‘la bise’, the traditional cheek-kiss greeting. 

A World Health Organization spokesperson said: 'When possible it would be advisable to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission' (stock image)

A World Health Organization spokesperson said: 'When possible it would be advisable to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission' (stock image)

A World Health Organization spokesperson said: ‘When possible it would be advisable to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission’ (stock image)

A World Health Organization spokesperson told The Telegraph: ‘We know that money changes hands frequently and can pick up all sorts of bacteria and viruses.

‘We would advise people to wash their hands after handling banknotes, and avoid touching their face.

‘When possible it would also be advisable to use contactless payments to reduce the risk of transmission.’

More than 91,000 people around the world have now caught the coronavirus and at least 3,117 have died of it

More than 91,000 people around the world have now caught the coronavirus and at least 3,117 have died of it

More than 91,000 people around the world have now caught the coronavirus and at least 3,117 have died of it

Scientists say the virus is known to be able to survive outside of a living body for hours at a time – maybe even days.

A study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection in February tested the almost identical SARS and MERS viruses and found they could remain infectious for up to nine days on a hard surface at room temperature.

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

What is this virus?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild lung infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can the Wuhan coronavirus kill?

Yes – almost 3,000 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus.

What are the symptoms?

The infection which the virus causes has been named COVID-19. Some people who catch it may not have any symptoms at all, or only very mild ones like a sore throat or a headache.

Others may suffer from a fever, cough or trouble breathing. 

And a small proportion of patients will go on to develop severe infection which can damage the lungs or cause pneumonia, a life-threatening condition which causes swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China and countries around the world have used this to create lab tests, which must be carried out to confirm an infection.

Delays to these tests, to test results and to people getting to hospitals in China, mean the number of confirmed cases is expected to be just a fraction of the true scale of the outbreak.  

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified around China and are known to have spread from person to person.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries all over the world have banned foreign travellers from crossing their borders if they have been to China within the past two weeks. Many airlines have cancelled or drastically reduced flights to and from mainland China.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

SCROLL DOWN OR CLICK HERE TO SEE MAILONLINE’S FULL Q&A ON THE CORONAVIRUS 

In China, the government has become so concerned about the virus being transmitted on money that it has started disinfecting and locking away used yuan bills.

Last month banks started to use intense ultraviolet light to kill viruses on notes and then to lock the cash away for up to two weeks until it is deemed safe to use.

Touching surfaces contaminated by the touch of a patient who coughed or sneezed onto their hand is thought to be the most common cause of the virus’s spread.

Professor Wang Lin Fa, from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, told the Straits Times: ‘Everybody’s wearing a mask but they are not doing anything to protect their hands.’

He added: ‘The lifts and the public toilets, these are the places where I would be very, very careful about touching any surfaces to not risk a coronavirus infection.’

The advice about avoiding bank notes comes as companies around the world have reportedly told employees to stop hot-desking, while others have been told to work from home.

Twitter is now encouraging all its staff to work from home if they can, to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Chief executive Jack Dorsey said the decision had been taken out of an ‘abundance of caution and care’. 

The company’s workers already have to work at home in Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea because of government lockdowns, but the company is widening this into its own policy.

Head of HR, Jennifer Christie, said: ‘Our goal is to lower the probability of the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus for us – and the world around us.’

Some financial companies in London have temporarily banned hot-desking, the Telegraph reported, or have introduced hand-shake bans.

International travel for work is also being cut down to try and minimise the risk of people catching the coronavirus in other countries.

The French government has urged people to avoid ‘la bise’ – the traditional greeting of kissing someone on either cheek – and not to shake hands to reduce the spread of the virus.

Health minister Olivier Veran said: ‘The reduction in social contacts of a physical nature is advised. That includes the practice of the bise,’ Bloomberg reported. 

And the UK government, as well as others around the world, is considering recommending people take ‘social distancing measures’ to reduce physical contact between people and stop the virus spreading.

The hashtag #StopShakingHands has been widely used on Twitter during the outbreak and as Britons take steps to minimise the chances of catching the illness.

In Germany, even Chancellor Angela Merkel was shunned by her interior minister Horst Seehofer who refused to shake her hand at an event today. Merkel had previously refused to shake the hands of attendees at an event in her own district due to the outbreak.

Rejected: German interior minister Horst Seehofer turns away Angela Merkel's offer of a handshake this morning after revealing he had stopped shaking hands over virus fears. Just days ago Merkel had revealed she would not shake hands at an event in her constituency due to the outbreak

Rejected: German interior minister Horst Seehofer turns away Angela Merkel's offer of a handshake this morning after revealing he had stopped shaking hands over virus fears. Just days ago Merkel had revealed she would not shake hands at an event in her constituency due to the outbreak

Rejected: German interior minister Horst Seehofer turns away Angela Merkel’s offer of a handshake this morning after revealing he had stopped shaking hands over virus fears. Just days ago Merkel had revealed she would not shake hands at an event in her constituency due to the outbreak

One British doctor today also claimed she has stopped shaking hands with new acquaintances and a Google executive revealed how he has spent hours avoiding the greeting in order to stop the virus spreading.

The number of cases worldwide is now approaching 90,000 while there have been 3,060 deaths. In the UK there have been 40 confirmed cases.

Motivational speaker and presentation coach Richard McCann hosted an event in Leeds on Saturday and later posted a video that showed him greeting a man with an air handshake in a move he said was because of the ‘unfolding coronavirus situation’. 

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, however, said stopping handshaking was unnecessary.

He said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It’s not a significant thing. So as long as you wash your hands after… then that’s fine.’

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, however, told ITV: ‘I’m now not shaking hands because we’ve got to be prepared and the advice I’ve received from medical experts is if you look around the world people aren’t shaking hands just to be prepared.

‘At the moment there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be shaking hands the key thing is if you are then just wash your hands afterwards. 

‘It’s nothing against the person you shake hands with but it avoids having to wash your hands regularly.’

What can you do to stop yourself catching the coronavirus?

The coronavirus has now spread to almost 70 countries around the world and health officials are scrambling to stop people spreading the virus among themselves.

But with many patients not realising they’re ill, and others carrying on with normal life until they are diagnosed, the fast-spreading infection is proving difficult to contain.

Avoiding an infection with the virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, may be as simple as sticking to usual good hygiene, according to scientists.

Here, MailOnline reveals some of the physical steps you can take to avoid catching the coronavirus… and they include not touching doorknobs, wearing gloves and avoiding handshakes, like Germany‘s interior minister who today refused to shake Angela Merkel‘s hand.

Wash your hands properly with soap and hot water

The World Health Organisation's hand-washing method has six distinct steps (two to seven) which involve washing different parts of the hands to get rid of as much bacteria as possible

The World Health Organisation's hand-washing method has six distinct steps (two to seven) which involve washing different parts of the hands to get rid of as much bacteria as possible

The World Health Organisation’s hand-washing method has six distinct steps (two to seven) which involve washing different parts of the hands to get rid of as much bacteria as possible

The World Health Organisation’s advice is for people to wash their hands at least five times a day with soap and water or hand sanitiser. Friction, experts say, is the key to scrubbing off any signs of infection.  

Proper hand-washing involves rubbing the palms together, rubbing the backs of the hands, interlocking fingers both backwards and forwards, scrubbing the thumbs and washing the fingertips. 

People should clean their hands after coughing or sneezing; when looking after ill people; before, during and after preparing food or eating; after going to the toilet; after handling animals and whenever they look dirty.

‘Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses,’ the WHO said in its official advice. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today insisted the public should remember to wash their hands frequently, while singing Happy Birthday twice – to ensure every part is cleaned.

Avoid hugs and handshakes

The French government has urged people to avoid ‘la bise’ – the traditional greeting of kissing someone on either cheek – and not to shake hands to reduce the spread of the virus.

Health minister Olivier Veran said: ‘The reduction in social contacts of a physical nature is advised. That includes the practice of the bise,’ Bloomberg reported. 

It comes as Germany’s interior minister today refused to shake Angela Merkel’s hand today amid a growing coronavirus outbreak in the country. 

Resort to ‘air handshakes’

Richard McCann is seen above miming a handshake with an attendee at his event in Leeds

Richard McCann is seen above miming a handshake with an attendee at his event in Leeds

After the event the two left the stage without actually shaking hands in a move Mr McCann said could be due to 'paranoia'

After the event the two left the stage without actually shaking hands in a move Mr McCann said could be due to 'paranoia'

Richard McCann is seen above miming a handshake with an attendee at his event in Leeds before walking off stage 

The handshake is becoming a taboo greeting among workers, as employees and clients fear the spread of coronavirus in the workplace.  

A motivational speaker and presentation coach has now devised the ‘air handshake’ because of the ‘unfolding coronavirus situation’.

Richard McCann hosted an event in Leeds on Saturday and later posted a video that showed him greeting a man with an air handshake.

Posting to his social media accounts, Mr McCann questioned whether was being paranoid for not shaking the hands of those attending his £300 per-ticket event.  

Regular and thorough hand-washing is thought to be the best protection against the virus

Don’t touch doorknobs and handrails

Experts say the most common way the coronavirus is thought to spread is by people touching surfaces which have been contaminated by an infected patient.

This works by somebody who has got the disease coughing or sneezing onto their hand, then touching a surface while they have the viruses on their hands.

Günter Kampf of the University of Greifswald in Germany said disinfectants can kill the viruses but many things we touch every day on transport or in public buildings are not frequently disinfected. 

The virus can live on hard surfaces which are touched by a lot of people for hours at a time, scientists say, with one study suggesting it could last for up to nine days.

For this reason, things like door knobs, should be considered a danger zone, as well as handrails on buses or trains. 

A lift is a particularly high risk place because everybody is trapped breathing the same air and having to press the same buttons

A lift is a particularly high risk place because everybody is trapped breathing the same air and having to press the same buttons

A lift is a particularly high risk place because everybody is trapped breathing the same air and having to press the same buttons

Use a pen to push buttons instead of your fingers 

Professor Wang Lin Fa, from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, told the Straits Times that a lift was a particularly high risk place because everybody is trapped breathing the same air and having to press the same buttons. 

One tip he saw on social media suggested pushing lift buttons, which can also harbour viruses, with a pen rather than a finger.

Be careful what you touch in public toilets

Professor Wang said: ‘The lifts and the public toilets, these are the places where I would be very, very careful about touching any surfaces to not risk a coronavirus infection.’

Stop touching your face 

According to Alistair Miles, an Oxford University researcher, everyone should stop touching their faces

According to Alistair Miles, an Oxford University researcher, everyone should stop touching their faces

According to Alistair Miles, an Oxford University researcher, everyone should stop touching their faces

According to Alistair Miles, an Oxford University researcher, everyone should stop touching their faces.

He said in a tweet: ‘Stop touching your face. Especially stop touching your eyes, nose or mouth. This is much much harder than it sounds, and takes practice.

‘But if you start practising now, you will quickly get a lot better at it.’ 

The viruses survive on surfaces and are picked up by the next person who touches it, who then touches their face and transfers the virus into their mouth, nose or eyes. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Avoid large gatherings

Keeping people apart is one of the main ways governments can attempt to stop the spread of the virus – what officials call ‘social distancing measures’.

In Italy, France and Switzerland, for example, public gatherings of large groups of people – such as football matches – have been cancelled or banned.

Science writer Laurie Garrett, who travelled around China during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03, said her top piece of advice is to wear gloves in public

Science writer Laurie Garrett, who travelled around China during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03, said her top piece of advice is to wear gloves in public

Science writer Laurie Garrett, who travelled around China during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03, said her top piece of advice is to wear gloves in public

Wear gloves in public and wash hand-held objects 

Science writer Laurie Garrett, who travelled around China during the SARS outbreak in 2002/03, said her top piece of advice is to wear gloves in public.

Keep them on when using public transport or spending time in public spaces, she wrote in Foreign Policy, and when opening or closing doors.

She said: ‘If it’s possible to open and close doors using your elbows or shoulders, do so. Wear gloves to turn a doorknob — or wash your hands after touching it. 

‘If anybody in your home takes sick, wash your doorknobs regularly. 

Ms Garrett also recommends not sharing towels and opening windows at home, where possible, to ventilate the house

Ms Garrett also recommends not sharing towels and opening windows at home, where possible, to ventilate the house

Ms Garrett also recommends not sharing towels and opening windows at home, where possible, to ventilate the house

‘Similarly, be cautious with stairway banisters, desktops, cell phones, toys, laptops — any objects that are hand-held.’ 

Don’t share towels and open windows in your house 

Ms Garrett also recommends not sharing towels and opening windows at home, where possible, to ventilate the house. 

This can also be done in cars, where people are in ‘close contact’, as defined by Public Health England – within two metres of someone for 15 minutes or more.

Catch coughs and sneezes and bin tissues straight away…

People should also cough or sneeze into a tissue, which they should bin immediately afterwards, and avoid spitting in public. 

If they don't have a tissue at hand, sneezing or coughing into the crease of the elbow is better than doing it onto hands

If they don't have a tissue at hand, sneezing or coughing into the crease of the elbow is better than doing it onto hands

If they don’t have a tissue at hand, sneezing or coughing into the crease of the elbow is better than doing it onto hands

… Or sneeze into your elbow 

If they don’t have a tissue at hand, sneezing or coughing into the crease of the elbow is better than doing it onto hands. 

Stand a metre away from anyone who coughs or sneezes  

‘When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus,’ the WHO says. 

‘If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.’

When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or simply talks, tiny droplets of moisture are expelled into the air, carrying the virus out of the body up to approximately seven feet (2.1m).

Professor Wang Lin Fa said: ‘You have to be very unlucky to get it from the droplets in the air.

‘It means that the person coughed directly at your face, or very near you, or if an infected person coughed in the lift about 30 seconds before you went in.’

Face masks are no good at protecting people from catching COVID-19

Face masks are no good at protecting people from catching COVID-19

Face masks are no good at protecting people from catching COVID-19

Don’t trust face masks – they won’t stop you getting the virus 

Although people have been pictured wearing them all over the world since the outbreak began, face masks are probably not any good at protecting people from catching COVID-19.

University of Reading scientist Dr Simon Clarke said individual viruses are so small they could pass through the filters on most masks people would buy from shops. Researchers tend to agree with this.

But they may reduce the risk of an infected person passing it on… 

But scientists do also say anyone who is already infected could reduce their risk of passing the virus on by wearing a mask.

They may be able to block droplets carrying the virus from being coughed out into the air around them.  

The virus infects someone by taking hold in flesh inside their airways and lungs after it is breathed in. Because of this, mucous and saliva contain the viruses and are infectious.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

Someone who is infected with the coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

More than 3,000 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and almost 90,000 have been infected. Here’s what we know so far:

What is the coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.

Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.

The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’ 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.  

By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.

By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths. 

A change in the way cases are confirmed on February 13 – doctors decided to start using lung scans as a formal diagnosis, as well as laboratory tests – caused a spike in the number of cases, to more than 60,000 and to 1,369 deaths.

By February 25, around 80,000 people had been infected and some 2,700 had died. February 25 was the first day in the outbreak when fewer cases were diagnosed within China than in the rest of the world. 

Where does the virus come from?

According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 

A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.

However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.

Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.

‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’  

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.

‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.

Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.

However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.

Can the virus be cured? 

The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region. 

Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.

The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.

She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.

DailyMail Online


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