On Thursday 30th January 2020, the Coronavirus outbreak was declared as a global health emergency by The World Health Organisation (WHO).
At the time of writing, the latest figures suggest more than 11,790 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wuhan, with 259 fatalities. Australia has 10 reported cases. The UK has 2 confirmed cases. Wuhan is in lockdown and travel bans are in place.
In A Nutshell : What Is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a family of viruses, capable of causing illness in humans and animals, from cats and dogs to wild animals and cattle. Prior to the Wuhan virus, there were 6 strains of coronavirus already identified. It’s called ‘coronavirus’ not after the ‘Corona’ beer but after the Latin word ‘corona’, meaning ‘crown’, due to a spiked shell resembling a royal crown encasing the virus.
The current Coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan is a new strain of coronavirus never seen before, labelled as 2019-nCoV. As such, nobody has encountered it before and nobody is immune to it. Not much is known about the Wuhan virus, but scientists are rushing to ensure a vaccine can be made available. While the origins haven’t been confirmed, it’s thought animal food markets and bats in particular may be at the heart of the outbreak. This is a highly contagious virus, able to be spread through just a sneeze or cough. It can be spread by an infected human before their symptoms even emerge, and it can take a few weeks before that happens.
There’s a lot of scepticism over official figures and whether they’re being played down, and there’s anger over the way people have been treated with the travel bans and with travellers being returned back home from China. The consensus is to not panic; the experts are working on learning more about the virus while they develop a vaccine that can be readily deployed, and contamination hospitals and protocol are in place to treat the infected and prevent further spread of the virus.
Can Dogs Contract Coronavirus?
It’s been reported that dog owners in China are rushing to get dog-specific surgical masks to protect their pooches. This has seen sellers of such masks experience a significant increase in sales. They’re designed to help keep out smog and toxins while also preventing dogs from licking or eating anything while they’re outside in the hopes of limiting their possible exposure to the virus.
Coronaviruses in general can typically be spread between humans and animals. Dogs can contract the likes of the CRCov (canine respiratory coronavirus) and others. But the case is less clear with the recent Wuhan virus.
A member of China’s National Health Commission, Prof. Li Lanjuan, warned that the virus can spread ‘between mammals’, urging owners to be cautious with their pets. She cautioned that if dogs come into close quarters with those infected, the pets will also need to be put in quarantine. However, no official word has some from WHO as to evidence to say our feline and canine friends can contract coronavirus. According to WHO, there have been no reported instances of pets catching the virus and no evidence to suggest they can contract it in the first place.
Without clear evidence either way, and with very little still being known about the 2019-nCoV Wuhan virus strain, it seems to be a case of caution and prevention just to be on the safe side.
Are surgical paper face masks effective?
Experts can’t say for sure exactly how the virus is transmitted, such as whether it’s via respiratory droplets in the same way as other coronaviruses, or instead through touching surfaces. It’s not too clear how it’s passed along and as such it’s hard to say just how effective or not the masks would be. If anything, the most likely to be effective would be the N95, a proper respiratory mask.
Some experts suggest a surgical mask might help in the case of the flu virus; it helps prevent you inhaling droplets that are in the air, providing the mask is worn consistently and that it fully covers the nose and mouth. The coronavirus does result in flu-like symptoms, but as for a mask providing protection against its spread, it doesn’t seem as likely. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance is that those infected should wear a face mask, and if you’re in the same room as others who may be infected then a mask should be worn. It’s not recommended that the general public need wear one. As such, unless local government advises otherwise, it’s individual discretion as to whether to wear a mask or other PPE.
But again, the adage of “it can’t hurt” applies. While it’s not a guaranteed safeguard, it may or may not help, but it can’t hurt to err on the side of caution. It nothing else, it’s a way people can assert just a little control over a situation that otherwise feels very much out of individual control. As always, the key is to prioritise hygiene with hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, not sharing household items, and not putting yourself at unnecessary risk. As per the CDC, those infected or who are being evaluated for the virus, should be isolated to prevent the spread of infection.
Even without proof of its effectiveness or need, would you want to make sure you & your pet were wearing surgical face masks just in case with a situation like this?
Further information : Johns Hopkins CSSE has has published a live data map showing Coronavirus case updates.