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How to protect yourself and what to expect: answers to important questions about Chinese coronavirus

Can a virus in the 1919st century kill millions of people like the Spanish flu in XNUMX? How does the new variety differ from the previously known ones? Who is at risk and how to protect yourself? Robin Shattock, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, answered questions from Alina Isachenko, a correspondent for the BBC Russian Service.

Фото: Depositphotos

How is the Chinese virus different from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or SARS, which killed 813 people in 2003?

In the case of the SARS virus, people first had symptoms of the disease, and then they became contagious. With the current coronavirus, although this requires additional research, people may be infected, but they will not show any symptoms for a few more days. However, they can already be contagious.

If this is true, then it will be more difficult to control the spread of the virus, because it is difficult to identify those infected without severe symptoms, for example, by measuring the temperature. They look quite healthy, they don’t need to see a doctor, they freely communicate with others, but at the same time they can contribute to the rapid spread of infection.

Who is at risk?

Elderly people and those who suffer from respiratory diseases are most at risk of serious illness. For healthy people, this virus is not a big problem.

Does this mean that if a person, say, is 30 years old, and he leads a healthy lifestyle, then he can still become infected, but not die?

Of course, we can not guarantee anything, but it seems that the vast majority of young people show symptoms in a moderate form, not much different from severe flu.

How to protect yourself from this virus if a person is in a city where the disease is already spreading?

The best way to protect yourself from the virus is with conventional hygiene products. Try not to sneeze or cough on you. If you yourself are ill, carefully dispose of used disposable handkerchiefs. Wash your hands more often, because the virus can be transmitted not only by airborne droplets, when someone sneezes or coughs, you can pick it up by touching infected surfaces or an infected person. So, I repeat: regularly washing your hands, you protect yourself from infection.

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Do medical masks help?

The mask has some protective properties, but it does not particularly help, since household medical masks are not able to delay the virus. In addition, viruses are in the hands with which people touch their faces, putting on and removing these masks, so there is no need to talk about their effectiveness.

What can countries do to keep the virus from spreading?

It is very difficult for a single country to protect itself from viruses, given the global movement of people. If the epidemic has begun, new cases of infection will be recorded in different parts of the world.

What China does by quarantining entire cities and restricting movement should slow down the spread of the virus. If these measures are effective, it will slow down its spread, but we will still witness a global epidemic.

We know that the original carriers of the virus were bats, which may have been an intermediate carrier, rodents, or some other species. And the game market in Wuhan has become the place where the virus was transmitted from animal to human.

I believe that in the future it will be very difficult to prevent the transmission of viruses from animals to humans, because this happens periodically and so, and as more and more people live in the vicinity of animals on the planet, population density itself will increase this probability .

One of the deadliest viruses of the XNUMXth century is the so-called Spanish flu. Then the epidemic claimed tens of millions of lives. Could an equally deadly virus appear in the XNUMXst century?

At this stage, we do not expect this virus to be as deadly as the Spanish flu, since many young people have become victims of that virus. In this case, we do not observe this.

Could something like the “Spanish flu” be repeated in principle? Yes, as a global community, we always live under the threat of a pandemic. Therefore, it is very important to be prepared for such a development of events.

But today we have a much more developed healthcare system, we have access to pure oxygen, to antibiotics, we are better prepared for such scenarios. And yet there is no doubt that sooner or later a new pandemic of influenza will happen.

The Internet is discussing the likelihood that this virus supposedly could be created artificially. Is it possible?

Absolutely not! Because we were able to find the source virus in bats. That is, it existed before, and then passed on to man. A detective story is solved, if you will. This virus was not created artificially in the laboratory, we are simply dealing with an interspecific transition.

On the subject: Chinese coronavirus: where does this type of disease come from and why is it so dangerous

How can a vaccine against the virus work?

When we imagine a virus, we are talking about the fact that it carries genetic information in a viral particle - the virion. On the surface of the virus there are protein hooks, with the help of which it attaches to the cells of the body and causes infection.

When developing a vaccine, we take this RNA chain and find out what part of it is responsible for the coding of the protein clues. Then we take this particular part of the chain and make a vaccination in which the virus is expressed only by this hook protein. It is to this part of the virus that the human immune mechanism that produces antibodies that bind this protein must respond.

So, if this virus gets to a person who has already developed antibodies, they block it and prevent it from entering the target cells. That is, a person does not become infected.

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