It’s a sneezy time of year. Have you had a cold lately?
Or maybe even flu – when you feel really rotten and achy? Your body is brilliant, though, at fighting off these bugs, which we call viruses. We all get them, but they rarely last more than a few days.
So, however you feel, you can give us a smile!
This winter you may see a lot in the news about a new flu in China. It’s got people worried – even though no one actually knows very much about it yet.
But there’s one thing we do know which people aren’t saying very much about. At WoW! we think they should.
Thousands of scientists, doctors and experts all over the world are working together in a new way, with lots more money and technical support than ever before, to find ways to stop this and other viruses much more quickly than in the past. That’s good news.
So, what do we know about the new flu?
Well, it’s a bug that normally lives in animals. Every so often, one of these animal viruses skips into a person. In this case, maybe from a snake. Some viruses are then able to jump from one person to another.
The first person fell ill late last year. Scientists quickly spotted the bug and gave it a name – 2019-nCoV. Not very snappy, I agree! About 3,000 people have been ill and over 100 of them died – mostly people who had already been not very well.
Of course, most flu is not dangerous, but some types can be. A hundred years ago, Spanish flu swept the globe and killed up to 50 million people. But we’ve got a lot better since then at fighting flu.
We’ve learned from past mistakes. China quickly warned other countries about 2019-nCoV – something it didn’t do when it kept quiet about a similar bug 20 years ago. Why not test your parents or teachers to see if they can remember that one’s name? And we now understand why we all need to work together to fight flu as soon as a new one appears.
Two years ago, top science institutions, countries and companies that make drugs got together to form an organisation called CEPI. Its job is to get everybody who can help, from anywhere in the world, to leap into action and share information about a new threat. Then all their research laboratories can collaborate on finding – and then making – a cure and on making sure that it gets to the people who need it.
Each flu virus is a bit different. So every time we need to build a new weapon against them. It’s called a vaccine. You’ve had your own vaccinations against other diseases, I’m sure. Global cooperation is vital to us getting a cure as fast as we need it.
CEPI has been developing ways to speed up new vaccines and is working hard on the Chinese flu.
Richard Hatchett, the American doctor who leads CEPI headquarters in Norway, says it is “hugely welcome” that China cooperated this time.
He adds that new ways of designing and testing vaccines could mean that the world could design a new weapon within weeks, not years as in the past, to fight 2019-nCoV – and the next flu that comes our way.
Meantime, let’s not forget that we all need to keep washing our hands as often as we can – if there’s one thing all those nasty viruses hate, it’s hot water and soap!