It has been more than a year since the arrival of COVID-19 or Coronavirus Disease in our lives, and we have learned a few things about it.
The novel coronavirus became a major public health issue affecting every country in the world, making it a global pandemic disease. It shed light on the deficiencies of public health management, and how vulnerable is our health system. Within this article, you will find answers to some of the most common questions about this disease. Among them are the most common symptoms: you are immune after the COVID-19 illness and many more.
By reading this article, you will obtain key insights about COVID-19, its symptoms, how to diagnose it, and many more common questions about it. Therefore, please continue reading this article to get pearls on this specific topic by a doctor’s hand.
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 are the numbers of the COVID-19 cases?
Since the first reports in Wuhan, China, scientists and doctors began recording all COVID-19 cases. To this date, the data shows that over 170 million people suffered from COVID-19 around the world. Some of these cases were asymptomatic, meaning that these patients did not have any kind of symptom. Still, the count of deaths is up to 3.8 million people globally.
These numbers are collected from reports throughout the world. Nonetheless, this only shows a portion of what might be the real problem. Third-world countries and countries with deficient health systems have difficulty processing data. Meaning that their numbers may not be correct, and the count may be even higher. COVID-19 Pandemic has shed light on the deficiencies of each country on their health systems and their measures for disease control.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
COVID-19 patients are affected in different ways by this illness. The COVID-19 symptoms may vary from person to person, and they will also depend on how much were they exposed to the virus. Nonetheless, most of the patients will develop a mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization. The overall symptoms are flu-like; among the symptoms are the following.
- Dry Cough
- Congestion or Runny Nose
There are also less common symptoms that involve other systems like the gastrointestinal tract and joints. Among these symptoms are the following:
- Joint pain
- Sore throat
- Recurrent Headache
- Pain behind the eyes
- Loss of taste and/or smell
- Skin rash
Although some of these symptoms may resemble other diseases or conditions, patients should know that COVID-19 is still possible when any of these latter symptoms appear. Please note that these are also mild symptoms because other groups of patients may develop more serious complications and symptoms. Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk of developing complications.
What are some emergency warning signs for the infection and the complications?
The first emergency or warning sign for this disease is contacting a person with the symptoms or having flu-like symptoms. It does not matter how simple it may seem. You should contact your doctor right away to receive medical care. After developing symptoms like fever, dry cough, headache, and runny nose, there is the possibility of developing severe symptoms.
Patients should always be aware of the following emergency sign and symptoms:
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent chest pain or pressure
- Inability to stay awake
- Confusion or dizziness.
- Pale, gray, or blue-color skin, lips, or nails
All of these signs and symptoms may not be present in a patient. Patients may present a couple of these symptoms, but the most important one is trouble breathing or shortness of breath. Patients with underlying conditions should inform their doctors as they are at higher risk of developing severe disease. Among the complications that COVID-19 may have are the following:
- Severe pneumonia
- Organ failure in several systems
- Heart problems
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (this is a severe condition that causes a low amount of oxygen to get into the bloodstream and later to the organs)
- Blood clots
- Acute kidney injury
- Opportunistic viral and bacterial infections
Can your pet get infected with COVID-19?
One of the theories is that SARS-CoV-2 infection was originally transmitted from animals to humans. Nonetheless, the ongoing risk of transmission through animal contact is uncertain. There is no current evidence that suggests animals, including domestic animals, are a major source of infection in humans.
Although there are certain reports of animals with the COVID-19 virus, these are on animals that are in close contact with an infected person. These reports include asymptomatic infections in dogs and symptomatic infections in cats. However, there is no solid proof that pets are a vector for this viral infection.
Are you immune to COVID-19 after recovery?
After several studies, scientists can confirm that at least within the 4 weeks following the disease, between 90 to 99% of the patients develop neutralizing antibodies. However, the strength and the duration of the natural immune response to the COVID-19 vary widely.
Available scientific data suggests that immune responses remain robust and protective against reinfection for at least 6 to 8 months in most people. The main trouble for these studies is that COVID-19 is a new disease with no previous background. Therefore, the longest follow-up to this date with strong scientific evidence is currently approximately 8 months.
A certain group of patients that is very small does not develop neutralizing antibodies after the infection. The reasons for these patients not to develop antibodies are still not clear. On the other hand, individuals with mild or asymptomatic infections tend to have lower levels of antibodies. These are in comparison with people who developed severe symptoms and respiratory illness. Some studies suggest that the waning of antibody levels occurs within several months after infection in some individuals.
So, to summarize everything, yes, after acquiring the disease, you have high possibilities of developing natural immunity. However, it will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the disease. The neutralizing antibodies are a key element of protection and immunity, although they are not the only defense the body has. Antibodies, alongside cellular immunity, provide longer-term protection, especially against severe disease and death.
What are the diagnostic tests for COVID-19?
To make a diagnosis of this disease, patients should first visit a clinic and get in touch with their doctors as soon as possible. The doctors may ask a series of questions in order to make a complete history. Within these questions, doctors will ask if there has been contacting with an infected person in the last few days.
After this, the doctors will ask what symptoms the patient has and since when. Later the doctors will ask patients about the COVID-19 testing studies. There are two different types, viral tests, and antibody tests.
Viral tests will tell if the patient has a current infection. There are two different types of viral tests; nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests. The other type of test is antibody tests. This type of testing will tell if the patient has suffered in the past of COVID-19. Therefore this type of test should not be used on patients to diagnose a current infection.
Antigen tests are immunoassays that detect the presence of a specific viral antigen (protein) implying current viral infection. These tests take their samples through nasopharyngeal or nasal swabs (a swab inserted through your nose or mouth to your throat).
Antigen tests are relatively inexpensive, and the results are quick. Most of the results are ready within 15 to 30 minutes after processing the sample. Nonetheless, antigen tests can be less sensitive than the Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) and other NAAT’s.
The clinical performance of these tests will depend greatly on the circumstances they are used. For optimal results, these tests are better if the patient has their viral load at its higher point. This means that patients should be with symptoms (symptomatic) and with just a couple of days of infection for being tested with antigen tests (ideally less than 5-7 days from symptoms onset depending on the manufacturer). Other tests like RT-PCR do not require the patient to be symptomatic.
How long should I self-quarantine if I was exposed to COVID-19?
First of all, it is important to notice that there is a difference between quarantine and isolate. Quarantine applies only to people that might have been exposed to COVID-19 to keep them away from others. On the other hand, isolate applies for confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Now, who needs to quarantine? Very simple, people who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Nonetheless, this excludes people who have had COVID-19 within the past 3 months or have the COVID-19 vaccine.
Close contact can mean many things. For example, being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes. It also includes a person that provides care to someone who is sick with COVID-19. Within this group is essential to notice clinicians and health workers. Nonetheless, health care workers are workers trained to use their personal protective equipment at all times.
But how long should someone self-quarantine? The CDC guidelines recommend that someone at risk of developing COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days. These 14 days begin after the last contact with the person who has COVID-19. Also, these people should be aware of any symptoms like coughing, fever, shortness of breath, among other COVID -19 symptoms. Finally, it is crucial that these people also take social distancing from people at higher risk of developing the disease and becoming patients with severe disease.
Can the symptoms worsen suddenly?
It is difficult as in most cases; the symptoms will worse progressively through the days. However, there are certain cases in which the symptoms will worsen in one day. The patient will suddenly have difficulty breathing, and the blood oxygenation will begin to drop suddenly.
In most cases, the cause for this sudden worsening is blood clots. People with risk factors like Hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity, or preexisting diseases are at higher risk of developing blood clots. Nowadays, doctors are aware of this type of complication and will start the proper therapy if needed.
It is important to remember that over 95% of the cases develop mild to moderate symptoms. The other 5% develop severe symptoms, which can worsen suddenly. Most of these patients have preexistent risk factors which expose them. These blood clots can attack the lungs, causing a sudden drop in blood oxygenation.
Which are the available vaccines for COVID-19, and who should get Vaccinated?
After the COVID-19 outbreak, the world desperately began the race to develop a vaccine. Fortunately, the efforts for developing this vaccine have become fruitful as now there are 6 different vaccines. In the last report of June 3rd, 2021, WHO has evaluated the following vaccines and met the necessary criteria for safety and efficacy.
- AstraZeneca/Oxford Vaccine
- Johnson and Johnson
Each one of these vaccines has its differences, but all of them prevent 100% severe disease. However, having a vaccine does not mean that a person cannot take preventive measures. People should stay at least 1 meter away from others, frequently cleaning hands, and wear a mask, at least for now.
People over 18 years old are safe to receive a vaccine. This includes people with preexisting conditions like asthma, hypertension, and diabetes, among others. Nonetheless, there are some instances in which the patient should talk with their doctor. These cases include having a compromised immune system, pregnancy, and a history of severe allergies, especially to vaccines.
On the other hand, it is vital to notice that children should not receive any vaccine for the moment. This is because there is not enough evidence on using COVID-19 vaccines in children to make recommendations for them.
I think I have the disease; what should I do?
This tool is a COVID-19 Symptoms Checker. It gathers the most important signs, symptoms, and risk factors for the infection. Therefore, the tool will tell anybody who uses it the likelihood of having COVID-19. Using the tool is free and would take a few minutes.