COVID-19 is a new disease by SARS-CoV-2, and right now is the major threat to public health worldwide. Read here to gain key insights into it.
Very much is said about this novel coronavirus. However, very often is inadequate information coming from not that well-designed studies which give inaccurate knowledge to people.
The scope of this article is utilizing proved science to get to you the right information that is known to this day by the scientific community.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the infection of a new virus. The virus’s name is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). And, the name of the disease is an acronym of “coronavirus disease 2019” by the World Health Organization (WHO). This change of name was to avoid any discrediting of the disease in association with any location, people, or animals.
What is the history behind this virus?
The new coronavirus is part of a big family of viruses. They have spike-like projections that are seen through powerful microscopes. Those projections give to the virus a crown-like appearance, for that the name coronavirus.
Indeed, it is a new virus, and there is no doubt about it. Historically humans have comprehensive knowledge about this family of viruses. They usually infect animals, but seven of them are known to cause disease in humans. The infectious disease is in the respiratory system with mild or severe manifestations, like the cold or pneumonia, respectively.
Could other coronaviruses affect me?
Even though this situation seems like a nightmare, and people are living it for the first time. The emerge of an unheard-of and contagious coronavirus has happened before but on a minor scale-the Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Before further telling you about those viruses, let me explain to you medical terms for understanding their spread. An epidemic is when there is a rise in the cases of a specific disease within a population in a short period. A pandemic is when this occurs, but on a bigger scale, in multiple countries and continents, in this case affecting the whole world. Mortality is a medical term that refers to the number of deaths in a determined time and place by a specific cause. Therefore, while the higher the mortality, the more deathly is a disease.
SARS-CoV caused an epidemy at the very beginning of the 21st century, and nearly a decade later passed the same with MERS-CoV, and here we are with the pandemic of the SARS-CoV-2. All these three viruses have, in common, the primary affection of the pulmonary system. But, please take a look at this data of how is the spread and mortality of the infections.
The mortality rate of SARS-CoV is 10%, while the MERS-CoV has 34,5%, both of them are greater than of the SARS-CoV-2. However, neither of them surpasses 10,000 cases, while the SARS-CoV-2, although less deathly (2%), accounts for more than 4 million cases today (May 13). So what this mean? This coronavirus is not the deadliest that we have seen, but certainly, it is the more contagious. Therefore, in the long run, it would manage to be the most lethal of them.
What is known about the origin of the virus?
The SARS-CoV-2 first was a virus living in bats, similar to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. Then the direct contagion of humans is not that easy. They “jump” and reside now within other animals. For example, SARS-CoV was living in market civets from China right before, evolving, and gain the capacity to infect humans. The same for MERS-CoV, which was found on dromedary camels, despite that, both of them were initially a bat virus.
For the SARS-CoV-2, the studies suggest that pangolins where the intermediary animal. Pangolin’s meat is weighed as a luxury in countries as China or Vietnam. It is no surprise that even though it is an animal species in protection is one of the most trafficked. The coronavirus that affects the pangolin (named Pangolin-CoV) is 90% identical to the SARS-CoV, suggesting that this animal is a reservoir for this infection. A reservoir means that they carry the virus, and through contact with this animal, you could acquire it too.
How can I get the disease from people?
It spreads the way as any other ordinary respiratory infection like the common cold or the flu. A droplet is a particle of water with sufficient weight to fall into the ground when it is in suspension over the air. When people have the infection and coughs or sneezes, their droplets could get up to six feet of distance; therefore, infecting people that inhale those particles. Also, the mucus or overall secretions of patients with coronavirus, if in contact with mucous membranes of healthy people, can infect them. Examples of mucous membranes are the eyes, mouth, or eyelids.
However, there is data that supports the fact that the virus can transmit even though the infected person does not have symptoms. It is true that when more symptoms, more quantity of virus is within the person; therefore, it is more contagious. And that is the matter; the estimation is that nearly half of the COVID-19 cases were due to a virus spread through people without symptoms to healthy people.
The problem is that people have the highest amount of virus on their first day showing symptoms, but within the fifty previous hours, that person was already contagious. All this without taking into account the people with the infection but no symptoms, which is around 40%.
How can I get the coronavirus from surfaces?
I will allow myself to explain some important terms regarding the spread of the virus on surfaces. It is not the same when a study tells you that a virus lived on a surface for whatever period, that telling you a specific term, as it is infectivity. The term infectivity implies the capacity of a microorganism to infect, in this case, humans. Of course, the persistence of a microorganism on a surface is in a relationship with infectivity. But, not always finding a microorganism means that you could get the infection.
The infectivity of the coronavirus would vary upon the surfaces and surrounding temperature. Overall the virus becomes weak with high temperature and humidity. Nevertheless, its duration in a material can range from three hours to seven days, in wood, or stainless steel and plastic, correspondingly. The time of the virus on surfaces is continuously changing with newer studies that employ different techniques. Therefore, keep reading for staying uptodate.
Where could you get the latest information on cases and deaths?
Since the Wuhan market when it was first identified as a coronavirus case in December 2019. Till the 13 of May, more than 4 million people around the globe have been confirmed to have COVID-19, and approximately 7% have died from it. However, the mortality rate varies between countries; for example, Italy displays a 13% mortality rate while the United States has 6%.
Currently, the United States is the country with more cases in the world. However, the reader must be aware that to test positive, first, a patient must be tested. I say this because it is also the country with more tests done. Therefore, the interpretation of all this information should be with caution.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an essential section in total dedication to the COVID-19. Also, there is a segment of cases, data, and surveillance, which you would find helpful.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The coronavirus infection has symptoms that range from none, mild, severe to a fatal disease. Symptoms could appear between 2- and 14-days posterior to acquiring the virus. Nevertheless, the average symptom presentation is within a week, and nearly all the patients present them by day twelve. But, it is essential to remember that till the fourteen days could still happen.
The infection has typical symptoms when the disease is mild or moderate, which includes fever, cough, and shortness of breath. However, other symptoms, such as loss of smell, malaise, diarrhea, coughing up mucus, and respiratory distress, are also common complaints.
Fever, cough, and fatigue are by far the most common complaints of these patients. Nevertheless, the symptoms of this disease are shared with other conditions. So, the doctors did some sort of protocols that, in this time, would help to assess the likeliness of having the illness. For example, if a person has cough and shortness of breath with any of the subsequent symptoms, it is very likely to have the infection, they are muscle ache, headache, sore throat, fever, chills, or smell/taste loss.
You may want to see: Common Cold.
How is the infection in children?
For now, the children don’t seem to be as seriously affected. At least as the adult population, with particular focus on the elderly. They only have three deaths in the United States. In comparison to the adult population, this death toll is minimal. The symptoms of them are the same as the mild presentation of adults, fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Furthermore, children present fewer symptoms, less hospitalization, and required less admission to the intensive care unit. Most of the children requiring hospitalization were the ones with less than one year. Although, the tendency was that for older children to present more symptoms and complications. Often the ones with severe diseases as a baseline were keener to develop a worse presentation of COVID-19.
This situation is changing from time to time, so caution should be made when interpreting this information.
What are the risk factors for having a severe presentation of COVID-19?
This topic is constantly changing. At the very beginning, the thoughts were focused on that only the elderly could die from this infection. But as a matter of fact, this is not true. While more people are getting the infection throughout the globe, the actual behavior of the disease starts to show. So, don’t take anything for granted.
All the adults beyond 40 years with any of the risk factors that I am going to mention are at a higher risk of complications by the infection. Among the leading risk factors are advanced age (more than 65 years), diabetes, heart problems, hypertension, chronic pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, and severe obesity.
Please allow me to show you some data for understanding better who affects the most this disease. In the United States, the elderly have all the protagonism in the complications of the disease. Here there are more than 1 million cases with nearly 80,000 deaths. The people aging more than 85 years with the infection died in an average of 15%. This rate decreased stepwise for the people aging 84 to 65 years, and 64 to 55 years till we got to people between fifty-four and twenty years, that when infected, just 1% of them dies.
For summarising, people over 65 years represent only a third of all the diagnoses in the United States. Nevertheless, they also represent half of all the hospitalizations and utilization of intensive care units and more than two-thirds of the deaths. It is essential to remember that people between 64 and 20 years represent the other half admitted to intensive care units; therefore, they are also at risk.
How long take to the COVID-19 symptoms to go away?
The estimation of the resolution of the symptoms is between ten to fifteen days. Although patients with risk factors that actually get complications, can get into an intensive care unit and prolong their hospital’s days.
The clearance of the virus in the body is faster for people with mild disease, while the ones experiencing a severe condition tend to have longer times of positive results in the microbiological and laboratory exams.
What are the possible complications of COVID-19?
Hopefully, 95% of the patients would have none, mild or moderate symptoms. And, sadly, 5% have severe symptoms and are at risk of requiring an intensive care unit.
The reason why patients have severe symptoms is due to underlying complications of the disease. Many compound the list of possible complications, and with each study, more of them could appear.
The complications that reason severe symptoms, for now, are pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, cardiac injury and arrhythmias, liver damage, acute kidney injury, severe hypotension, respiratory failure, and multiorgan failure. Approximately half of these patients needing intensive care would die. Therefore, the fatality rate of COVID-19 is around 2%, which means that about 2 of every 100 people with the infection would die.
Who should get tested for coronavirus?
Patients with a critical respiratory condition without any apparent cause, require testing. People with the symptoms aforementioned and a previous contact of less of fourteen days with someone that was laboratory tested positive for the infection-people with coronavirus symptoms that arise within fourteen days after travel. Also, if people with any of the risk factors I previously mentioned are having symptoms. Lastly, people with symptoms who are essential for the pandemic response needs testing. Nevertheless, the testing situation is changing fast, and consulting the CDC guidelines is a must.
There is a treatment for the COVID-19?
For now, it is irresponsible to say that there is a cure. Nevertheless, it is encouraging that multiples types of treatment are under development these days. The problem is that standard antiviral therapy failed. The efforts right now are with many other kinds of approaches as new antivirals, immunotherapies, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccines. Let me introduce some of them to you.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved as an emergency measure the use of remdesivir for its use in severely ill patients. The studies yield that patients in fragile conditions benefit from it, recovering faster than the other patients. But these are just preliminary results, systematic review and assessment for this treatment are needed.
The WHO is currently running high-reaching clinical trials around the globe that includes most of the treatments that look more promising, it has remdesivir, chloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, or lopinavir/ritonavir plus interferon beta-1a. The best study for confirming that a treatment works, are the ones comparing the treatment with no treatment at all. Also, neither the patient or the doctor know who is getting the placebo or the treatment. It needs to be done in this way for a real assessment of the effectiveness of the drug.
Even though there is no coronavirus vaccine at the moment, more than 80 candidate vaccines are under development. The approval of an effective vaccine would allow all of us to return to everyday life. Only by teaching the body on how to defend from the coronavirus, we will safely interact with other human beings in society. The novel virus owns all this struggle because it is new; the new microbes tend to cause worse diseases because the body still does not know how to defend from them.
How can I prevent the infection by coronavirus?
The lack of a vaccine, and how it spreads means that the best way to prevent the infection is by avoiding the virus. All the measures that imply reducing the possible contact with people or surfaces that have the coronavirus.
The CDC recommends washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with people (two arm’s length away), covering your nose and mouth even if you don’t feel sick when with others, covering cough and sneezes, and clean and disinfect the personal items you use daily. Also, the CDC recommends against the gathering of ten people or more and promotes wearing masks even if you do not have symptoms in public places where social distancing is difficult. For more information, visit the link.
Why is it crucial to social distancing right now?
The coronavirus pandemic burden on the workers is enormous, especially to the health care workers. Recently, the coronavirus crisis even got to the American workers an economic impact payment, aiming to reduce the financial bump on them. The unemployment rate is higher than never, with many people soliciting unemployment insurance. So the coronavirus outbreak, turned into a coronavirus crisis, indeed.
However, taking the chances of freeing too soon, the coronavirus restrictions, as said by Dr. Fauci, would lead to “Needless Suffering and Death.” The testing capacity right now is not at his best, and even though most patients present mild symptoms, this respiratory illness can cause death. The coronavirus news keeps showing it as a severe illness, although people are not paying it that much attention anymore. They want their jobs and life back.
The United States is nearing to one million and a half million confirmed cases, with an average of twenty thousand new cases daily. A lowering of the number of cases should start appearing before having thoughts on returning to normality. This decrease in new cases would be possible with sufficient social distancing and an available vaccine, and for now, we only have the former. If the economy reopens too early or without the right measures, the number of new cases could outreach the health care system with awful outcomes as with Italy. The medical doctors had to choose which patients will receive the respiratory machine, according to the best chances of surviving.
I think I have COVID-19 symptoms, what should I do?
This tool is a COVID-19 symptoms checker; it would help to assess how likely it is that your symptoms are by COVID-19. It would be free and only take a few minutes. However, if you are feeling very sick, please do not hesitate and contact a healthcare provider.