What a way to kick off the new decade – a never-before-seen lethal virus that has face masks, sanitizer, paper towels, and toilet paper flying off the shelves as the world prepares for an apocalypse. Governments have imposed travel bans, quarantines, and lockdowns while scientists race for a vaccine. The world has always been a hectic place but the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has made things a little crazier lately.
In the face of panicked media reports, it pays to separate fact from fiction and to properly understand the situation
What is the Coronavirus and What Causes It?
The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 and 2019-nCoV, is a type of virus from a family known as coronaviruses, so named for the crown-like appearance of their particles. Other members of this family include the viruses behind SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), as well as more common coronaviruses that cause upper respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold and pneumonia. In total, there are currently seven coronaviruses that can infect humans; COVID-19 is new because it recently evolved from affecting only animals to now being transmissible to humans.
On the 12th of December, 2019, Wuhan city in the Hubei province of China reported a severe pneumonia outbreak, now known to be as a result of the novel coronavirus being transmitted from bats to humans.
We now have cases of human-to-human transmission in various countries across the world and authorities continue to track the virus’ movements, the media reporting an alarming increase in new cases every day.
Despite coronaviruses not being a new entity, there is a significant amount of panic and concern surrounding what is close to being considered a pandemic. COVID-19 appears to be more easily spread compared to previous coronavirus scares, such as the 2003 SARS episode, and is also demonstrating a sustained spread; it also has the ability to cause fatality, with the highest risk factors being older age, male gender, and pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Other pre-existing medical conditions thought to increase the risk of mortality from COVID-19 infection are diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, and cancer. However, in comparison to previous coronavirus epidemics, COVID-19 is much more benign with a mortality rate estimated at 2%; SARS demonstrated a fatality rate of around 10% while MERS was significantly worse at 36%.
Although there have been reported cases and COVID-19-related deaths across the US and, as of this writing, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently assesses the risk of COVID-19 to the American public as being low. However, the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high, both here in the US and worldwide.
Coronavirus Symptoms in Humans
Human symptoms reported from the Coronavirus range from mild to severe (and fatal). It is generally agreed across healthcare authorities that symptoms may take anywhere from 2 to 14 days to present after exposure, though there have been reports of an asymptomatic incubation period as long as 27 days. Although it is possible to transmit the virus before even realizing you are sick, it is thought that patients are the most likely to transmit illness to other people when at their most symptomatic.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common symptoms of Coronavirus in humans are:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
Other symptoms may include body aches, a congested or runny nose, sore throat, and diarrhea.
80% of infected people actually recover without requiring medical intervention.
How to Protect Yourself from the Coronavirus
Transmission of the Coronavirus infection appears to be via droplets of respiratory fluid carrying virus particles. These droplets can be coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person, and then inhaled by an unassuming passer-by, or transmitted by touching an infected surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
The WHO recommends the following measures to protect yourself and your loved one against the Coronavirus:
- Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wash for at least 20 seconds!
- Keep at least three feet away from anyone who appears to be ill, particularly those coughing and sneezing.
- If you have to cough or sneeze, rather than covering your face with a hand (which will then touch a surface that someone else is going to touch), use the inside of your elbow or a tissue. Dispose of the used tissue right away.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you need to seek medical attention, consider calling ahead to your doctor or hospital and let them direct you – in case they are concerned about spread in the waiting room!
Many questions have been raised as to the efficacy of solutions and appliances that may be able to kill the Coronavirus. As of this writing, none are true.
- Eating garlic won’t ward off the Coronavirus
- Dousing yourself in alcohol or chlorine will not get rid of it, either, if you have already been infected
- Handling objects made in China or posted from China will not put you at risk of infection as the virus is known to not survive for long on inanimate objects
- Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV
- UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of your skin; radiation from UV rays can cause skin irritation
- Thermal scanners can detect people who have a fever, so in theory, it can detect one infected with the Coronavirus. However, fever is just one of the Coronavirus symptoms and also won’t detect the Coronavirus in incubation. It takes those infected with the virus 2-10 days before they present with symptoms
- There is no evidence as of yet that pets can be infected and/or transmit the Coronavirus
- Pneumonia vaccines do not provide protection against the Coronavirus
- Rinsing your nose with saline solution can help you recover quicker from the common cold but there isn’t evidence to suggest that it will prevent infection from the Coronavirus
- Antibiotics are effective against bacteria, not viruses
Staying abreast of updates regarding COVID-19 as well as keeping a level head and good hygiene is your best defense against the current coronavirus scare.
For more information on the Coronavirus, please visit:
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
World Health Organization (WHO)