A Greek scientist who provided a genetic analysis of the novel coronavirus that is responsible for the recent epidemic that broke out in Wuhan, China, says that a vaccination against the virus is within reach and should be ready “relatively quickly.”
“We consider that the coronavirus vaccine will be available relatively quickly, possibly even in a few months if we also estimate the time required for clinical tests,” Dimitrios Paraskevis, associate professor of preventive medicine and hygienic epidemiology at the Athens University School of Medicine, told the Greek City Times in an interview published on Tuesday.
Seeking to allay public concerns about the virus’ potency, Paraskevis noted that the “coronavirus is not so lethal in relation to other viruses.”
“Coronavirus as well as flu virus causes, to a great extent, very mild symptoms. The death rate was considered to be approximately 3-4 percent but it is possibly much less because… the real number of the cases is unknown,” he said.
“Those who are more susceptible to this infection are older people, vulnerable groups and people who suffer from chronic heart diseases, chronic breathing diseases and immunodeficiency,” added Paraskevis.
Paraskevis and his Athens University colleagues Evangelia-Georgia Kostaki, Gkikas Magiorkinis and Sotirios Tsiodras, along with Georgios Panayiotakopoulos from the University of Patra and vice-chair of the National Public Health Organization, and Dr Georgios Sourvinos from the University of Crete, are the authors of the study “Full-genome evolutionary analysis of the novel corona virus (2019-nCoV) rejects the hypothesis of emergence as a result of a recent recombination event,” published in the journal “Infection Genetics and Evolution.”
“The coronavirus belongs to a team which is characterized as ‘B team’ and it’s the same team to which the virus which caused the epidemic SARS in 2003 belongs. The genetic material of the virus which has caused this present epidemic, presents a great proportion with the genetic material of the relevant virus infecting bats,” Paraskevis told the Greek City Times.
“Of course, we cannot rule out the fact that the infection can be caused by another animal, another carrier, another mammal which has been infected by bats and this, in turn, transferred it to humans,” he added.
In terms of protection from the virus, which spreads relatively easily – including via droplets from sneezing or coughing – the expert recommends basic hygiene and sanitation practices.
“People should wash their hands with soap for about 20 seconds, and especially when they are in congested places such as airports, and they should avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth with their hands…. Also, if we feel symptoms identical to the ones of the flu, we should stay home, so that we don’t expose other people to danger; and if symptoms persist, we should ask for medical advice,” Paraskevis advises.
Asked about surgical masks, which are being increasingly used by the public, especially on public transportation, the expert notes that they do “not constitute the absolute means of protection… from a possible flu infection or coronavirus.”
“The role of the mask is to protect other people from the sufferer who must wear it,” Paraskevis adds.
The expert also appeared confident of the Greek response to the outbreak, saying that “the authorities have taken the appropriate measures, have announced the protection measures to be undertaken by health professionals, by the population and what people who travel should be mindful of.”