A novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, was recently identified as the cause of a disease outbreak that began in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.
SARS-CoV-2 stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. The virus was officially named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on February 11, 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) selected the name per its best practices for the naming of new human infectious diseases.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can affect both humans and animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.
Several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections like the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Although rare, animal coronaviruses can infect people then spread amongst them as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2.
Note: SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV viruses have their origins in bats.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19, otherwise coronavirus disease 2019, is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the most recently discovered coronavirus.
Early infections suggested animal-to-person spread since many of the patients had a link to a large live animal and seafood market. However, the virus later began spreading from person-to-person with reported cases outside China.
On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). More than 100,000 cases of COVID-19, formerly 2019-nCoV, have been confirmed globally in countries such as:
|Japan||The United States|
|Italy||The United Kingdom|
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the WHO, the most common symptoms of coronavirus disease in 2019 are;
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulties.
These symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after infection and are usually mild. However, some patients have experienced severe illnesses, such as SARS, pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death.
About one in every six people who get infected becomes seriously ill. With older people and those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease being at higher risk.
On the other hand, some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms. Moreover, about 80% of those infected, recover from COVID-19 without requiring special treatment.
Note: Seek medical attention if you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 can spread from person-to-person through the following ways:
- Inhaling respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. It is, therefore, crucial to stay more than 3 feet (1 meter) away from a sick person.
- Touching objects or surfaces these droplets land on, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is mainly transmitted through respiratory droplets rather than through air. And people are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic.
So, although possible, the likelihood of catching the virus from someone with no symptoms at all is very low.
Coronavirus disease 2019 protection measures
As there’s currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, taking precautions is the best way to reduce your chances of being infected or spreading the disease. WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that you:
- Thoroughly and regularly wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to kill viruses that may be on your hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or sneezing by maintaining at least a 1-meter distance between you and them.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as your hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, which can enter your body through your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Stay home when you are feeling unwell. If you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention but call ahead. Calling in advance allows your doctor’s office to take the necessary steps to keep other people from getting exposed or infected.
- Ensure you and those around you practice respiratory hygiene, i.e., covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and immediately throwing it in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces using a regular household cleaning product.
- Use facemasks if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or are a health worker.
- Stay updated on the latest cities or local areas where COVID-19 is quickly and sustainably spreading. And avoid traveling to these hotspots as you have a higher chance of catching coronavirus disease 2019 in such areas.
What to do if you suspect you are infected
If you suspect you are infected with SARS-CoV-2 or have COVID-19, follow the steps below to help prevent spreading the disease:
- Self-isolate by staying at home if you start to feel sick, even with mild symptoms. Restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. So do not go to work, school, or other public areas and avoid using public transport. But if you do go out, wear a mask.
- In the house, separate yourself from other people by staying in a specific room away from others and using a separate bathroom, if possible.
- You should limit contact with your pets until there’s more information on the virus. Have someone else care for them during your illness. Alternatively, wear a mask while interacting with your pets and wash your hands before and after.
- If you start feeling worse, say having difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call your doctor ahead and tell him/her of any recent travel or contact with travelers.
- Stay at home until your healthcare provider decides to discontinue home isolation precautions. The decision should be made on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.
There is currently no antiviral medication recommended for COVID-19. Those who are infected should receive treatment directed at relieving symptoms such as cough medication and syrup, pain relievers, fluid intake, and rest.
For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions lest they fail.
COVID-19 myth busters
- Cold weather and snow cannot kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
- SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus, cannot be transmitted through goods manufactured in China or any country reporting COVID-19 cases.
- SARS-CoV-2 cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites.
- Vaccines against pneumonia, such as Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not protect against the SARS-CoV-2.
- Antibiotics are not effective in preventing and treating the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Taking a hot bath does not prevent coronavirus disease in 2019, formerly 2019 novel coronavirus.
Bangladesh, Albania, and Paraguay are the latest countries to report cases of COVID-19 as of March 9, 2020.
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- World Health Organization (WHO) March 9, 2020. who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses
- National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease (NCIRD), March 3, 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) What you should know. cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
- WHO (n.d). Coronavirus Disease (COVID-2019) Situation reports. who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/
- Mayo Clinic Staff ( March 07, 2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/symptoms-causes/syc-20479963