I suspect that you, like all of us, are looking for Coronavirus help — trying to make sense of this rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic. The world today feels very different than the way it did a few weeks ago. I yearn for the world before the coronavirus was a reality. This article was written to provide you with the facts and answer the most common questions. Someday soon, all of this will be a memory and we will endure and get through if we follow the guidelines from medical professionals.
Everyone is talking about it. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused a worldwide panic. Is this all because of media hype, or should we be concerned? This article is going to give you the full coronavirus story. Where did Coronavirus start? How do you know if you’re infected? What should you do if you suspect you, or a loved one has been infected with Coronavirus? Has the world gone mad, or this the really a global threat? Time for some answers.
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You can’t turn on the news, or view your Facebook page, without being bombarded with Coronavirus stories and cases. These days, it’s hard to tell what is fake news and what is real, making it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Then there are the all the jokes about panic buying of toilet paper. Given the mass public interest, and rampant speculation, I decided to do some detailed research. Get the real facts, so we all know what we’re in for.
Coronaviruses (CoV) consist of numerous strains, all part of a large family of viruses. Diseases related to CoV range from the common cold to more serious respiratory syndromes such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). MERS-CoV was originally discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and SARS in Asia (2003).
Coronaviruses can be found in humans and various animals, including cats, cattle, camels, and bats. The MERS outbreak of 2012 originated from dromedary camels and SARS from civet cats.
Corona viruses are characterized by their ability to mutate rapidly and adapt to different species. SARS-CoV-2, now known as COVID-19, has been identified a β-Coronavirus. The classification β-Coronavirus (Beta-Coronavirus) relates to the protein structure of the virus. This determines which species can act as hosts and how the virus mutates to migrate to other species. While SARS-CoV-2 is associated with bats, and SARS-CoV with cats, they are genetically similar. Essentially, there is little that distinguishes the current COVID-19 outbreak from the SARS outbreak of 2003. The symptoms are identical:
- Shortness of breath
- Some, rare cases, have been reported where COVID-19 has caused respiratory problems, kidney failure, and death.
The first Coronavirus case was reported in the city of Wuhan, China on the 1st of December 2019. It is believed that the epicenter of the outbreak was a fish and livestock market in Wuhan.
The COVID-19 virus is spread by contact with people. This would be touching an infected person or being in close proximity (about 3 feet). Coughing, sneezing, or even normal breathing can spread the virus to people close by as small droplets of saliva can be transmitted through the air. These droplets can be inhaled by anyone close by. Apart from respiratory transmission, any contact with airborne COVID-19 can cause infection, this could be contact through the eyes, nose or, mouth.
The New England Journal published research into the sustainability of SARS-COV-2 in aerosol and on surfaces. The virus has an aerosol lifespan of 3-hours. Various types of surfaces produce different results:
- 72-hours on stainless steel and plastic. However, the sustainability is reduced rapidly over time on stainless steel. After 48-hours, approximately half the volume was found on stainless steel.
- 24-hours on cardboard
- 4-hours on copper
This needs to be taken into account when touching certain surfaces. I think we need to take a realistic approach to secondary infection through touch. I’m saying this as I believe it is important to remain cautious but avoid panic.
I’ll use a combination of scenarios to illustrate this point. In doing so, we need to be aware that coronavirus cannot spread through the skin. The virus enters the body through an orifice where it is transferred through bodily fluid. This will most likely be the eyes, nose, or mouth, as these are the most exposed and we are most likely to touch these areas of the body.
If an infected person coughs, the virus will remain active in the air for approximately 3-hours and will gradually become less infectious over this time period. This would be the most dangerous situation, as anyone who breathes in this air may easily become infectious.
If the infected person coughs into their hand, the disease will be transmitted by touch. Any surface that this person touches can become a source for secondary infection. If you touch a surface while the virus is viable, you may become infected. Though, after touching this surface, you will need transfer the virus to your eyes, nose, or mouth to become infected. Hence the term secondary infection. You are only at risk, once the full sequence of events has been completed.
I said caution, rather than panic, because we cannot live in fear and avoid all contact with surfaces. Instead, the best we can do is wash our hands frequently. As I’ve learnt from observing my cats in their daily routines: when in doubt, wash. It makes sense to keep sanitary hand-wipes with you at all times.
The incubation period of a virus is the time lapse from exposure to the virus and the first symptoms. According to the CDC, the coronavirus incubation period is 2 – 14 days. A more conclusive study, presented by the University of Massachusetts Amherst has calculated a median incubation period of just over 5-days. In the majority of cases (97.5%), symptoms developed within 11.5 days.
The World Health Organization has published a Coronavirus advisory page on their website, I have summarized this, along with advice from other sources. The first step to preventing the spread of COVID-19 is plain common sense, avoid infection. The following preventative measures should be taken to prevent contracting the virus.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- If clean water and soap are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- You should not touch your eyes, mouth, or nose with hands that have not been recently washed.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- If you are caring for someone who is sick, wear a face mask and wash your hands after every contact.
- Avoid travel to high-risk areas.
People who are infected with COVID-19 should do the following to prevent further spread of the virus.
- Quarantine. Stay at home if you are sick.
- Wear a face mask.
- Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer (min 60% alcohol) regularly.
- Clean and disinfect areas that you touch, like countertops, door handles, etc. A solution of bleach and water can be used to disinfect the home. Mix about ¹⁄₃ cup bleach to a gallon of water.
If you suspect you, or anyone in your family, is sick and may have COVID-19, you should first call your personal doctor for advice. If you don’t have a doctor, you should contact your local board of health.
People with suspected COVID-19 are advised not to visit an emergency department, unless you have obvious severe symptoms. If you need emergency health care, call the emergency department in advance so that health care professionals can prepare in advance.
Patients suspected of contracting Coronavirus can only be properly diagnosed after being tested for the virus. The CDC conducts all tests for COVID-19
To date, there has been cases reported where COVID-19 has been spread through contact with domestic or farm animals. It is believed that the virus is being spread through human contact.
There can be no doubt that coronavirus is a particularly aggressive flu and should be taken seriously. I’ve read many articles comparing COVID-19 statistics to flu statistics over the past years. These articles chalk coronavirus up to be nothing more than media hype. Is common flu more deadly than coronavirus?
I want to start by dissecting the methodology used by journalists proposing that annual flu deaths are higher than coronavirus. Firstly, this is simply irresponsible reporting of statistics. How can you compare coronavirus over a period of 3-months to flu statistics over 12-months? This is simply inaccurate. Furthermore, we need to consider the exponential rate of infection. One infected person can infect hundreds. This means that the rate of infection will increase with each passing day, as more people become infected and then infest others.
I believe hindsight is 20/20. Reviewing recent history might give us a better indication of how to compare COVID-19 vs Flu death rates.
Remember the “Swine Flu” pandemic back in 2009? The situation can easily be compared to the current coronavirus outbreak.
Swine flu was a deadly H1N1 virus with very similar symptoms to COVID-19 and spread from pigs to humans in mid to late 2008. During the period from April 2009 to April 2010 there were 12,469 H1N1 deaths in the United States. During the corresponding flu season (August 30th 2009 – April 3rd 2010), the CDC reported 2,125 flu deaths. This means that H1N1 deaths were four times more than flu that year.
What we can, therefore, deduce that COVID-19 is serious potential danger. In saying this, I once again want to caution against panic.
Mass hysteria and panic can easily exasperate the situation, causing economic and social mayhem. Preventing the spread of the virus, through healthy practices, should be foremost in everyone’s minds. Though, this should not interfere with our daily lives, unless we suspect that we may be contagious. This requires a balance of self-awareness and social responsibility.
As with any disaster, preparedness is essential to survival. Cautious foresight would entail preparation for self-quarantine. This means that if you fall ill, you should stay at home and ensure that you have all you need to survive until the illness passes. Despite the serious nature of the disease, the majority of infected people survive.
Stocking up for potential Quarantine
As a precautionary measure, people are advised to stock the following items, with at least a month’s supply.
- All chronic and subscription medication.
- Drinking water and non-perishable food.
- General disinfectants for home cleaning.
- Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and hand soap.
- Face masks.
- Fever medication
- Cough medication
General precautions should include, amongst other things, preparation for emergency evacuation or local quarantine:
- Keep your car filled with gas.
- Have enough cash.
- Emergency kit: medical supplies, flashlights, and batteries.
There are several websites offering up to date information on the current status of the COVID-19 virus. Check sites, like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regularly.
While most Coronavirus cases have not been fatal, there are certain people who are more at risk and should, therefore, be more cautious. These would be people over the age of 60 and people affected by the following health conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic respiratory disease
Lifestyle will also put some people at a higher risk:
- Alcohol and drug consumption
- Unhealthy diet
As with so many epidemics and pandemics, the poor are also the most vulnerable. They do not always have access to the best medical care. Overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions also affect lower income groups. Poor diet also affects our immunity system, making it harder for the body to fight disease. These conditions enable a more rapid progression of any contagious disease.
There is so much speculation on how the COVID-19 virus is predicted to spread, and how long the pandemic will last. It really is impossible to say what lies ahead
According to an article in The Washington Post (March 13, 2020) 40 – 70% of the world’s population is expected to become infected with COVID-19. This is an alarming prediction and healthcare workers, around the world, are preparing for the worst case scenario. Though, it seems doubtful whether the healthcare system, in any country, would be able to cope with 70% or more of the total population being infected.
At present, there is no cure or vaccination for COVID-19. However, research into a Coronavirus vaccine is in the advanced stages. Human trials for the vaccine started on Monday 16 March.
Developing the COVID-19 Vaccine
The first step in the long process of developing a vaccine for COVID-19 was taken on January 7th, 2017 when Chinese scientists identified the genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 (later abbreviated to COVID-19). The genetic sequence was released on January 11th. By January 13th, the US National Institute of Health (NIH), in collaboration with the infectious disease research team at Moderna, had finalized the sequencing of mRNA-1273, a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) is a single-stranded molecule responsible for transmitting genetic code from DNA in the cell’s nucleus to the ribosomes. This is basically how the body makes proteins in a process known as protein synthesis. By developing a specific mRNA sequence, instructions are relayed to the ribosomes within the cell on how to create the desired protein. These proteins are then released into the body, helping to fight the virus.
The first phase of clinical trials for mRNA-1273 has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle. Trials have also started in China at the Academy of Military Sciences. Trials in the UK are set to start at Oxford University in April.
While a lot has been achieved quite rapidly, mRNA-1273 trials are in the early stages. Generally, a vaccine will take anything from 12 – 18 months from the start of clinical trials to actual roll-out. If trials are successful, we may see a COVID-19 vaccine around mid-2021. Though this can only be speculative at the moment, much work is yet to be done.
VIDEO — The Race to Develop A Vaccine for COVID-19
Resource Links for COVID-19
Here are some excellent links about COVID-19, to ensure you find get your questions answered. Stay healthy and stick to the facts. Opinions have no place when it comes to medicine, health and science in general.
Links you can trust :
- Central Hub for COVID-19 : CDC : Center for disease control & prevention
- Questions & Answers on COVID-19 : World Health Organization
- Latest Updates on Coronavirus : AARP
- Collection of Detailed Articles : New England Journal of Medicine
- US Travel Advisories : US Department of State
- Real-time Statistics : WHO
- Map : Current Situation : John Hopkins University & Medicine
Technology / Social Online Meeting Places
- Connect Online / Digital Event : Zoom : Video Software
Various News Stories
- Ventilator Makers Race to Prevent a Possible Shortage : Wired Magazine
COVID-19 Symptoms You Need to Worry About :
If you have any of these symptoms below and you suspect you may have COVID-19, then you need to get medical attention right away. Contact the hospital on your way there so they can be ready for you when you arrive.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face