COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a new kind of virus. COVID-19 causes respiratory conditions in humans varying from common flu, dry cough, pneumonia, and even prove fatal in some cases.
The new virus that causes the disease is termed as SARS-COV-2 and the disease itself is named COVID-19. This new virus originates in animals like mammals but has not been identified in humans before.
Ø Symptoms of coronavirus disease
Common COVID-19 symptoms, as pointed out by the World Health Organization (WHO), include:
· Dry cough
· Breathing difficulty
· Common flu
· Shortness of breath
Some other less common symptoms are pains and aches, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, nasal congestion, and nausea.
The type of symptoms you are likely to experience depends upon how strong or weak is your immune system. People with a compromised immune system either due to old age or pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or liver problems are more likely to experience severe symptoms. Such an audience is at a greater risk of developing serious illnesses like pneumonia, bronchitis, organ failure, and in most cases, death. The symptoms of COVID-19 in many cases could appear after 6-14 days of contracting the virus.
Ø Timeline of COVID-19 symptoms
COVID-19 symptoms do not generally emerge as soon as you get infected. It could take from somewhere between 6 to 14 days before you experience the symptoms.
You may feel mild symptoms such as fever, dry cough, and in some cases, fatigue.
Now you may start experiencing difficulty in breathing and frequent shortness of breath.
Up to this point, the difficulty in breathing will worsen and you may need to admit to a hospital.
By this time, the symptoms will get more severe and you are likely to develop respiratory conditions like pneumonia, bronchitis or acute respiratory distress. You’ll probably be shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
This is the period during which a patient either moves towards recovery or the condition worsens. In most cases, the fever and shortness of breath end as the symptoms become milder.
By this phase, most of the patients will start feeling better and symptoms will almost halt. Meanwhile, patients with a more serious case of illness may die. Deaths are common among older patients with a weak immune system or those having pre-existing medical conditions.
By now, the disease finishes and most of the patients recover from the COVID-19. However, some patients may stay in the hospital for up to 27 days until recovery.
Ø How does coronavirus spread?
The main transmission method for the COVID-19 is person-to-person spread. Exposing yourself to the sneezed or coughed out respiratory droplets from an infected person could transfer the virus to you. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that coronavirus spreads faster than influenza and transmits very easily.
· By inhaling the air droplets
The body fluids like mucus or saliva of an infected person may contain the virus. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the droplets of these body fluids disperse into the air or may land on a surface. If you are close to the infected person, you can inhale the suspended droplets into your body in which case you get the virus as well. Scientists suggest that coronavirus can travel up to 6 feet in the distance if an infected person sneezes.
· By touching the contaminated surfaces
In another scenario, you can pick up the virus from surfaces like doorknobs, handles, benches, etc. that had been previously exposed to the respiratory droplets of an infected person. Having physical contact with such a surface and then touching your face, mouth, nose, or even eye can transfer the virus to you. Scientists from the CDC concluded that coronavirus can stay alive for 72 hours on steel and plastic surfaces while 24 hours on cardboard surfaces.
· By having physical contact with an infected person
Another way for the virus to transmit is by having direct physical contact with the infected person such as a handshake, hug or kiss. Someone who is infected may have a virus on their hand due to touching their nose or mouth. As you shake hands with that person, the virus transfers onto your hand after which it can infect you as well.
Ø Is it airborne?
Is COVID-19 an airborne disease? The research is still on to figure whether or not coronavirus can travel through the air. However, scientists suggest that so far no solid evidence could conclude that the disease is airborne. Some studies do note that coronavirus particles could exist in exhaled air or aerosols and could travel through indoor ventilation. However, a conclusion is yet to be reached as experts can’t agree on a unified deduction. WHO suggests that as of now there is insufficient evidence to prove COVID-19 as an airborne disease
Ø How is COVID-19 diagnosed?
The only authentic way of diagnosing the COVID-19 is by laboratory testing the saliva or blood sample for the infection. However, the testing requires time and resources and therefore, not all suspected cases are tested immediately. A doctor considers several factors before recommending you for the test. These factors include your travel history, initial screening, signs or symptoms of COVID-19, and any contact with a confirmed case in the past 14 days. If after initial screening your doctor or local clinic seems necessary, you’ll be asked to go for the testing phase.
Ø How is the coronavirus disease treated?
As of now, there is no cure for the infection or approved treatment for COVID-19. Vaccines and antiviral medications are currently being tested and are under study. However, experts claim that it can several years before a vaccine for COVID-19 can be created. The treatment for COVID-19 mainly focuses on controlling the symptoms of the disease rather than killing the virus.
In most cases, the symptoms of COVID-19 will stop on their own. The doctor might suggest you recover at home if the symptoms are mild. However, if the symptoms get worse, the doctor will recommend some fever medications and painkillers. If you experience severe breathing difficulties, you may be admitted to a hospital for breathing support. Some common treatments to manage the symptoms of COVID-19 include:
· Pain-relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
· Antiviral drugs
· Cough medications
· Ventilators for breathing support
· Steroids to control lung swelling
· Anti-malarial drugs
Anti-malarial medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have proven to be effective against COVID-19 as approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use. Trials are currently being conducted by the US government to estimate the efficiency of chloroquine. However, do not take any chloroquine product unless prescribed by a doctor and bought from an authorized source.
Favipiravir, also known as favilavir, is an anti-viral drug that is approved by the Chinese medical authorities to use as a treatment for COVID-19. Clinical trials are still undergoing in China to further know how effective the drug is.
However, both chloroquine and favipiravir are not globally proved treatments for COVID-19 as they are yet not approved by WHO or Centre of Disease Control. Therefore, refrain from taking any such drugs on your own unless recommended by your doctor.
Treating coronavirus disease at home
If you are trying to recover at home, follow these steps:
· Get pretty of sleep and rest.
· Avoid any hectic physical activity while you are sick.
· Stay hydrated.
· Drink pretty of water and intake hot fluids to battle flu and cold.
· Use over-the-counter drugs and pain killers for fever.
· Isolate yourself from other members of the house.
· Don’t go to any public areas.
Ø How fatal is COVID-19?
How deadly is the new coronavirus disease? According to the global statistics, the WHO estimates a death rate that varies between 3.4% to 4%. This means that out of every 100 infected people, 3 or 4 will die. However, the death rate for COVID-19 only evaluates the total deaths out of total confirmed cases. How deadly COVID-19 proves to be for an individual depends upon several factors. These factors mainly include the overall health of the person, condition of the immune system, and age.
COVID-19 is most deadly for elderly patients or those with pre-existing medical conditions. Patients of 80 years and above have a relatively higher death rate of 14.8 %. While the patients in 70 -79 years of age group have a death rate of 8%. In such cases, the symptoms of the disease are more severe and may lead to conditions like pneumonia and bronchitis. (ref10)
Meanwhile, younger people aged between 10 to 39 have the lowest fatality rate of only 0.2%. In China, the death rate for patients less than 50 years of age was less than 1%. This is because the immune system tends to function best against the diseases at a younger age and gets weakened with age. However, WHO stated that younger people too are vulnerable to the disease as the virus could potentially hospitalize or even kill them.
How fatal is the new coronavirus disease depends upon the age and overall health condition of the patient. The latest statistics show that almost 80% of COVID-19 patients can recover at homes and do not even require to get admitted to hospitals. Though the disease is deadly for some patients, many face only mild symptoms and can recover.
Ø Prevention against COVID-19 (ref11)
· Social distancing
The WHO and CDC have urged to us stay home as much as possible and avoiding public gatherings. If you have to go outside for any reason, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others whether or not they are sneezing or coughing at that moment.
· Wash your hands often
Make a habit of washing your hands especially when you come home from outside. Wash your hands carefully for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. Keep a hand sanitizer with you when going out in public areas.
· Avoid touching your face
You can get coronavirus on your hands by touching the contaminated surfaces in public. Next, if you touch your face, mouth, eyes, or nose, the virus can transmit to you. Therefore, don’t touch your face or mouth unless your hands are completely clean and sanitized.
· Avoid physical contact with others
Avoid having handshakes, hugs, or kisses with others as the virus can pass from skin to skin.
· Use face masks in public
Always cover your mouth and nose in public places such as hospitals and grocery stores. You can use any kind of face masks either surgical, N-95, or cloth. Using face masks will prevent the chances of inhaling the respiratory droplets of another person and will stop the spread of the virus. Also, when sneezing or coughing, make sure you have your mouth and nose properly covered.
Ø Facts about the new coronavirus disease
· Where did the virus originate from?
The new coronavirus disease started from the Hunan seafood market in Wuhan, China. Though the scientists are still skeptical about where did the virus came from in the first place but its believed that the original host of the virus could most likely be bats.
· Who was the patient zero?
Patients zero refers to the very first person who contracted a certain disease. In the case of COVID-19, it was a 57-years-old female shrimp vendor, named Wei Guixian, at the seafood market in Wuhan.
· Why is the virus named ‘corona’?
The word ‘corona’ is a Latin word that means ‘crown’. Microscopic inspection of the virion of the coronavirus shows its shape to be spiky crowned liked and hence, the name coronavirus.
· The number of infected and dead?
As of today, the total number of confirmed cases worldwide is more than 1,455,000 with 83,687 deaths. Meanwhile, 310,108 infected patients have recovered so far.
Ø List of top infected countries in the world
The numbers continue to change every day. However, here are the latest stats on the countries with the most number of confirmed COVID-19 cases so far.
Ø What’s the progress on the vaccine for COVID-19?
Officials from WHO claim that as of now, there are almost 20 vaccines for coronavirus in development. Out of these, some vaccines are already undergoing clinical trials. For instance, a vaccine by Biotech Moderna, inc. is currently being tested in animals and will soon be used in human trials.
Experts believe that so far the progress on the invention of a coronavirus vaccine is truly remarkable. More than 35 academic and medical institutions are trying their best to create such a vaccine. However, keeping in view all the factors, a vaccine for COVID-19 could take about 18 months until it is available for public use.
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