What You Should Know About The International COVID-19 Pandemic
At the end of December, public health officials from China made a grim announcement to the World Health Organization (WHO) stating that they had come face to face with a grave problem: a previously unknown virus seemed to be plaguing the city of Wuhan causing severe pneumonia-like illness, and death.
We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.
This new virus sparked a highly concerning contagion in Wuhan, China and soon after, as we all know, rapidly brought the world to its knees. This tricky and perplexing virus was traced back to the zoonotic coronavirus family, where Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) evolved from. All three are betacoronaviruses - meaning that these strains have a strong linkage to bats. The first reported cases of the COVID-19 disease were found in people who had direct exposure to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market of Wuhan shares WHO, suggesting that the first transmission was not human to human but, animal to human.
The WHO named the novel coronavirus as nCov and dubbed the sickness that is developed from the virus as COVID-19 — "'co' and 'vi' for coronavirus, 'd' for disease, and “19” for the year when the disease emerged."
Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. The family of coronaviruses where COVID-19, SARS and MERS came from is the betacoronavirus strain - meaning that there is a high chance these diseases came from bats.
Read More: Decoding Medical Jargon: Understand What You Are Reading Regarding The COVID-19 Outbreak
Life as we know it, has changed. President Duterte has declared a state of calamity in the Philippines, for the next 6 months. An enhanced community quarantine has been placed over the nation and all mass public transportation has been suspended. The majority of businesses in the nation have come to a stop, including the Philippine Stock Exchange.
The COVID-19 virus is a new pathogen that is highly contagious, can spread quickly, and must be considered capable of causing enormous health, economic and societal impacts in any setting.
— World Health Organization
Unlike its predecessors, SARS or MERS, COVID-19 is unfortunately more contagious with an R0 of two-four (an average of 3.6) meaning that a person positive for the COVID-19 virus may infect two-four people.
According to the Journal of Travel Medicine, R0 (pronounced R-naught) is defined as "an indication of the transmissibility of a virus, representing the average number of new infections generated by an infectious person. For R0 > 1, the number infected is likely to increase, and for R0 < 1, transmission is likely to die out."
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the virus' reproduction number is significantly more dangerous in comparison to that of influenza (whose reproduction number is estimated at 1.2 to 1.4), while the WHO estimates "an average mortality rate of three point four per cent, which is around 100 times higher than the flu."
We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear
— Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general
When a virus attaches to a host (for example, a human being) it applies “evolutionary pressures” to the host meaning that it forces the person's body to adapt in response to the virus' interference. The virus too, mutates, evolves and adapts. Although nCov is not as lethal (meaning that its host can cope better with it than in comparison to when faced with diseases SARS or MERS) there is a higher rate of transference.
Alessandro Vespignani, a professor of computer and health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston and an expert on the study of societal effects of infectious disease says that in his opinion, 30 to 50 percent of the world’s population could be infected.
“The COVID-19 virus is unique among human coronaviruses in its combination of high transmissibility, substantial fatal outcomes in some high-risk groups, and ability to cause huge societal and economic disruption" shares the WHO.
After analysing an extensive set of data, north of 72,000 cases from China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, epidemiologists Zunyou Wu and Jennifer McGoogan have come to the unfortunate conclusion that the fatality rate for patients 80 years and above was around seven times greater than the average. Thus they have proven that the virus is more dangerous for older age brackets.
Aside from those more mature in age, people of any age who have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, lung or heart disease, or if you are immuno-compromised (have cancer or are taking immuno-suppresant drugs), you are at greater risk of the severe effects of COVID-19 shares the CDC - take extra precautions.
The symptoms of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) are not extraordinary and many patients can be carriers without showing symptoms. Typically the infected patients should experience the effects of a regular pneumonia: such as fever, sore throat, cough, fatigue, aches and pains, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. However, standard blood tests on COVID-19 positive patients do not present unusual numbers, perplexing many medical professionals.
Read More: 5 Youtube Channels That Will Help You Keep Fit and Healthy During The Quarantine
The WHO says that "as with other respiratory pathogens, including flu and rhinovirus, the transmission is believed to occur through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. Aerosol transmission is also possible in case of protracted exposure to elevated aerosol concentrations in closed spaces. Analysis of data related to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in China seems to indicate that close contact between individuals is necessary.”
According to the CDC the pathogen can travel through the air, enveloped in tiny respiratory droplets that are produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. With that in mind and with the fact that germs can last up to nine hours on surfaces, be sure to keep social distancing at play until told otherwise, and please, sanitise absolutely everything.
Take no chances. Do your part as a responsible, sensitive and informed citisen of the world and help to stop the virus' exponential growth. Help #FlattenTheCurve.
Read More: How To Avoid Covid-19: Tips To Stay Sanitised