In December of 2019, there was a cluster of pneumonia cases in China. No one knew why the phenomenon happened, but a further investigation found that it is caused by a virus called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus 2 a.k.a “Coronavirus” that causes the infectious disease known as COVID-19.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus 2 comes from a family of viruses called the Coronavirus. This family of viruses causes sickness such as the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The COVID-19 initially occurred in a group of people with pneumonia who have been associated with the live animal market and seafood in Wuhan, China. The disease, however, has now exponentially spread from those who are sick to others around them and has been declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Method of Spreading
This virus spreads via surfaces. Although the risk of getting the virus from goods and packages is low, it is still uncertain how long it can survive on them. People can still catch the virus by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.
Its main way of spreading seems to be from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. People will get infected with the virus if they accidentally breathe in those droplets. Therefore, it is important to stand at least 1 meter away from a sick person.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some patients, however, may experience aches, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.
These symptoms are usually mild and gradual. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell. This is dangerous as those people have no clue of their condition and may spread the virus unknowingly.
Most people (around 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. About 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes critically ill and develop breathing difficulties. Older people and those with underlying medical issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems, are more likely to develop serious complications.
Case Fatality Rate (CFR)
The case fatality rate (CFR) is the share who died from the disease among individuals diagnosed with the disease. It is calculated through the formula shown below.
The case fatality rate can only be an estimation at the moment as the number of diagnosed cases and deaths are increasing gradually. It is only an estimation and not a constant value since it changes over time.
Social Distancing, Lockdowns, and Graphs
Social distancing, lockdowns, what are they for? What can we accomplish from it? Well, the short answer is, we need social distancing and lockdowns in order to flatten the curve of the spread graph.
Coronavirus is often compared to the flu, but actually, it is much more dangerous than it. This is mainly because of its contagious nature and the fact that it spreads much faster than the flu. There are two possible futures for the virus, a slow spread, and a fast spread. This can be pictured into a graph as shown below.
We are aiming for a slow spread pandemic. A slow pandemic means that governments of each infected countries will be able to handle the virus efficiently without it getting out of control.
Let’s imagine the worst-case scenario, a fast spread infection. What would happen then? A fast pandemic means that the virus will spread rapidly and exponentially to the point that there are no countermeasures to slow it down. In a fast pandemic, many people get sick at the same time, to the point that the numbers get too large and the healthcare system becomes unable to handle it. There will not be enough resources like medical staff or equipment like ventilators to help everybody. People will be left untreated. If healthcare workers get sick themselves, the capacity of healthcare will fall even further. Once there are not enough resources available, tough and cruel decisions will be made, which would lead to older people being left to die. The number of deaths will increase significantly in such a scenario.
To avoid this, all of us should play our roles to turn this into a slow pandemic. Practice social distancing, stay at our homes and avoid going outside unless it is absolutely necessary.
Here are 7 things you should be doing in order to stay safe during this pandemic:
1. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand rub when there is no soap and water available.
2. Maintain at least 1-meter distance between yourself and everyone else, always be aware of those who are coughing and sneezing.
3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. This is because your hands touch many surfaces and may pick up viruses. Once contaminated, your hands can transmit those viruses to your eyes, nose, and mouth.
4. Follow good respiratory hygiene such as covering your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or with tissues when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose the tissues immediately.
5. STAY AT HOME. Your house is your protective barrier against this virus. The longer you stay at home, the less likely for you to contract the virus. This also greatly helps the nation to limit the spread of the disease.
6. Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where the virus is spreading). If possible, try to avoide those areas completely.
7. Last but not least, stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website through your national and local public health authority. Always check your sources before reading or spreading the word around, make sure it is from a trustable and legitimate source.
Question and Answers
This is a compilation of a bunch of popular questions asked by many which have been properly addressed by WHO.
1. Can hot and humid climates prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus?
Answer: From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in, or travel to an area reporting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
2. How effective are thermal scanners in detecting people infected with the new Coronavirus?
Answer: Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature) because of infection with the new coronavirus.
However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with a fever. This is because it takes between 2 to 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.
3. Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?
Answer: No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.
The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts. Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.
4. Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?
Answer: No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.
However, if you are hospitalized for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.
5. Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus?
Answer: To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range of partners.
6. Are there things I should not do?
Smoking, wearing multiple masks and taking antibiotics are not effective against COVID-19 and can be harmful to oneself.
MOH found that a smoker’s lungs have more vulnerable sites for infection of the Coronavirus as compared to healthy lungs. This means that if a smoker contracted the virus, the risk of complication and death is much higher.
*For more questions and answers, please visit the official website of WHO and MOH to get more insights and awareness regarding this disease.
By: Dinesha Nachar