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The new coronavirus disease: what do we know so far?

02 May 2020
Volume 12 · Issue 5


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a novel coronavirus that causes the new disease COVID-19. Symptoms range from mild to severe with a higher incidence of severe cases in patients with risk factors such as older age and comorbidities. COVID-19 is mainly spread through the inhalation of respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing or via contact with droplet-contaminated surfaces. Paramedics should be aware that some aerosol-generating procedures may put them at a higher risk of contracting the virus via possible airborne transmission. Use of remote triage clinical assessment is likely to increase as a result of the pandemic. There is no curative drug treatment for the virus and some medications may exacerbate its effects or make patients more susceptible to it. Evidence and guidelines are evolving on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Paramedics should keep up to date with the latest clinical guidance from their employers.

In late December 2019, a novel coronavirus was identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan, causing severe respiratory disease including pneumonia (Public Health England (PHE), 2020a). In January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) named this novel coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the associated disease as COVID-19 (Chen et al, 2020a; PHE, 2020a; WHO, 2020a). The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the UK was recorded on 31 January 2020 (Razai et al, 2019) and the number of cases has continued to rise since then (Figure 1).

Similar to other coronaviruses that have infected humans, SARS-CoV-2 are enveloped, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses that cause respiratory infections (Chan et al, 2020; Xu et al, 2020). As with most human coronavirus infections, most SARS-CoV-2 infections induce mild respiratory disease and symptoms (Chen et al, 2020b; Huang et al, 2020).

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