Coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 is a respiratory tract infection that affects the upper respiratory tract – the nose, sinuses and throat or the lower respiratory tract comprised of the windpipe and lungs. The virus is one of the 7 types of coronavirus which include those that cause other severe diseases like sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
COVID-19 is a new strain that began in China in 2019 and spread to other countries and continents at a fast rate that led the World Health Organization to declare the virus a pandemic.
Until the end of March, Coronavirus had caused over 780,000 confirmed cases and over 37,000 deaths worldwide. The statistics are worrying, but without a specific cure or vaccine, over 165,000 people have recovered fully from COVID-19. As more efforts go into finding a cure or vaccine for the virus, it is important to have a clear understanding of the virus and know how best you can protect yourself and your loved ones.
What causes Coronavirus?
There is still no clear cause of the new coronavirus. However, coronaviruses can affect different species of animals. SAERS and MERS were both linked to animals and so is COID-19 as the first cases are said to have started in the Wuhan market in China.
COVID-19 is believed to have spread from animals to people before starting its widespread from person to person.
How is COVID-19 Transmitted?
One of the factors that has led to the high cases of the virus is how it is spread from person to person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes and the droplets are breathed in or swallowed by another person, the other person can get infected.
You can also get infected if you touch a surface or object that the virus is on, then touching your nose, mouth or eyes. That is why there has been a lot of emphasis on not touching your face and the need to frequently wash hands. Most viruses can live for several hours on a surface.
However, COVID-19 is said to last longer on surfaces as follows:
- 2 -3 days on plastic or stainless steel
- 24 hours on cardboard
- 4 hours on copper
This is why disinfecting surfaces is very crucial in reducing the spread of the virus.
What are its Symptoms?
In the early stages, COVID-19 has symptoms similar to those of a common cold and the infected person may experience fever, dry cough and fatigue. As it advances, the virus can lead to pneumonia, septic shock, respiratory failure and in the worse cases, death.
Symptoms to look out for:
- Trouble breathing,
- Ongoing chest pain,
- Bluish lips or face,
- Confusion and
- Not being able to wake up.
Depending on individuals, the symptoms can start showing in 2 days or even after 14 days. If you have any of these symptoms it is crucial that you seek medical attention immediately and even more important that you isolate yourself and avoid contact with other people to avoid spreading it to them if you have the virus.
How is COVID-19 Diagnosed?
Testing for COVID-19 is done after taking a sample using a swab from the nose or throat from someone who is suspected to have the virus. The sample is taken to a lab and tested for presence of the virus. If the person is found to be positive, they are put in isolation as they get treatment. A negative result could indicate no presence of the virus or that there was not enough sample to measure.
Is COVID-19 Treatable?
As mentioned earlier in this article, over 160,000 people have actually got treatment and recovered from COVID-19. However, at the moment, there is no specific medication or vaccine for COVID-19. Its treatment is mainly focused on easing the symptoms. Antibiotics are used to treat several infections.
However, they do not work for COVID-19. People with severe symptoms need to be cared for in hospital. There are numerous clinical trials being done to explore treatments for other conditions that could be used to treat COVID-19.
For instance, a study in China showed that chloroquine and hydrochloroquine which are used to treat malaria and autoimmune conditions like lupus, may have helped people with COVID-19 pneumonia. Another study is focused on remdesivir which is an antiviral medication that was developed for Ebola.
The rate at which COVID-19 is spreading worldwide is worrying, but we can all play a part in stopping the spread by basic personal hygiene tips.
- Clean and disinfect. Surfaces that are often touched like doorknobs, sinks, tables and light switches need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Ensure you use gloves when cleaning and dispose of them after use.
- Practice social distancing by avoiding contact with other people. Self-quarantine is being practiced in most parts of the world with many people working from home. In countries like Italy, Spain and South Africa, their governments have enforced total lockdowns while countries like Kenya are currently enforcing curfews to reduce the rate of infection.
- Do not touch your face. This has been strongly emphasized because coronaviruses can survive on surfaces for hours or even days making their spread much easier.
Let us stay safe and keep those we care about safe including any other person you come into contact with. If you are infected, instead of going about your daily life as usual, keep other people safe by staying away from them, seek medical attention and stop the spread of COVID-19.
If you have travelled recently ensure you self-quarantine to avoid spreading the virus in case you are positive. Taking care of yourself is important but remember to take care of others by being responsible. Do not cough or sneeze without covering your mouth with a tissue or your elbow.
Stay safe and stop the spread of this pandemic that has shaken the world.