Information on the 2019 novel coronavirus

The Outbreak:

The World Health Organization (WHO) was alerted of several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, China on 31 December 2019, and a novelcoronavirus was identified as the cause of the outbreak. Majority of the cases have occurred in China but sporadic cases have also been reported in Australia, France, Japan, Singapore and the US among others. As of 27th January 2020, 2798 confirmed cases had been reported globally with 80 deaths. In Kenya, surveillance efforts have been enhanced, owing to the close trade relations Kenya has with China and other countries.

What are coronaviruses:

Coronaviruses (CoV), named for their crown like spikes on the surface, are a large family of virusescommon in many different animal species such as cattle, cats, camels and bats. Animal coronaviruses rarely infect, and spread between humans as is the case in Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). A novel coronavirus (nCoV 2019) is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans. There are four main sub-groupings of coronaviruses; alpha, beta, gamma and delta viruses. Seven coronaviruses cause infections in humans and the latter three are zoonotic;
a. 229E (alpha coronavirus)
b. NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
c. OC43 (beta coronavirus)
d. HKU1 (betacoronavirus)
e. MERS-Cov (betacoronavirus)
f. SARS-CoV (betacoronavirus)
g. COVID-19


Human to human spread has occurred with MERS and SARS mainly thorough respiratory droplets produced in coughs or sneezes. Although this has not been proven for 2019-nCoV, there is a degree of evidence to suggest the same.

Signs and symptoms: Common signs include;
a. Fever
b. Cough
c. Shortness of breath
d. Difficulty in breathing
Severe cases may present with;
a. Pneumonia
b. Severe acute respiratory syndrome
c. Kidney failure
d. Death

Infection control and prevention:
a. Regular handwashing
b. Covering mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing
c. Thoroughly cooking meat and eggs
d. Avoiding close contact with people showing signs of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing

What to do incase illness is suspected: Seek early medical care and inform the health care provider of any recent travel and if anyone has developed signs and symptoms consistent with those associated with COVID-19.

Laboratory specimens to be collected:
a. Respiratory material (nasopharyngeal swabs, oropharyngeal swabs, endotracheal aspirate and bronchoalveolar lavage)
b. Paired serum samples (acute and convalescent samples) for serological testing to support aetiologic agent identification
NB: it is important to collect sufficient sample volume (3mls) and store samples at 4 degrees celcius <5 days and -70 degrees celcius  > before shipping to the National Influenza Centre (NIC) at the National Public Health Laboratories (NPHL). For more information, refer to the Sample collection and management protocol