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In December 2019, a new strain of coronavirus was identified in Wuhan town, Hubei Province, China. The new breed of coronavirus temporarily named 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is responsible for the widespread outbreak of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic disease in the early month of March 2020.
As of June 5, 2020 more than 6.7 million people have been infected worldwide with more than 393,000 people dying, and about 2.9 million recovering from the disease.
What is Coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a virus that circulates among animals but has the potential to infect humans. Consequently, coronaviruses refer to a family of viruses that mostly infect animals but can in rare occasions infect humans and cause illness.
Medline Plus defines coronavirus as, “a type of common virus that can infect your nose, sinuses or upper throat." It is noted by the medical organization that almost all people get the coronavirus infection at least once in their lifetime, most likely as a young child.
According to WHO, some of coronaviruses can infect people and cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The official name of this new strain of coronavirus is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2). It is responsible for the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The Origin of 2019-nCoV
It is not known which animal(s) might have served as an intermediary host of the new virus. Scientists are investigating the animal source of the virus though they suspect bats might be the natural reservoir of the new virus.
Previously, two strains of coronaviruses, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, resulted in eruption of two infectious diseases, SARS and MERS. These diseases spread to several countries but the rate of infection and resultant deaths was dismissal in comparison to the current coronavirus.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) was identified in 2002 in China while Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was singled out in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
Despite the low number of people who had been infected and died from MERS infection in comparison to COVID-19, MERS poses more of a threat to humans than COVID-19.
Opinions vary which animal(s) hosted the new virus that enabled it to jump from the animal(s) in question to humans. Some of the animals thought to have acted as intermediaries range from rats, snakes to pangolins.
It is unclear whether the initial victim of the virus was infected in the Wuhan market or in a distant location. The New York Times states, “The virus was found in people associated with the market, and in the market environment - on surfaces, for instance, or in cages. However, some of the early cases including what might have been the first reported case, were in people who were not associated with the market.”
How 2019-nCoV is Spread
The 2019 novel coronavirus, an infectious respiratory disease is primarily spread through air droplets discharged by an infected person through sneezing or coughing and inhaled by an uninfected person who is in close proximity to the infected person. This is the reason people are advised to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from each other, and practicing respiratory etiquette.
“While animals are the source of the virus, this virus is now spreading from person-to-another (human-to-human transmission). There is currently not enough epidemiological infection to determine how easily and sustainably the virus spreads between people. The virus seems to be transmitted mainly via respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough or exhale,” states European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Symptoms of 2019-nCoV
It takes about 2-14 days for an infected person to begin showing the symptoms from the time they got infected though most people begin exhibiting symptoms of the illness between 5-6 days.
According to WHO, most of the people infected with COVID-19 develop mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.
The symptoms include:
- Dry cough
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Pain in the muscles
- Sore throat
- gastro-intestinal problems
- Loss of smell and taste
- A rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes
In severe cases, the infected develop serious symptoms which are:
- Sepsis and septic shock
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Loss of speech
- Loss of movement
- Multiple organ failure
- And ultimately, death
Because of limited information how the virus is transmitted, it is not known which group of people is more vulnerable in developing the severe symptoms. It is thought the elderly, the young and people with pre-existing or chronic medical conditions are susceptible to developing the severe symptoms.
Some of the infected don't exhibit any symptom and don't feel unwell according to WHO. "Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness," states WHO.
In addition, WHO remarks, "Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care."
There is no cure or vaccine for the 2019-nCoV. Several medical institutions, both nationally and internationally are working around the clock to find a vaccine to stop the menace from spiraling out of control.
Regarding antibiotics, WHO notes that antibiotics are useless in treating 2019-nCoV as the antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial infections. “The novel coronavirus is a virus, and therefore antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.”
The only form of treatment that is being used at the moment is managing the symptoms. “There is no specific treatment for this disease so the approach used to treat patients with coronavirus-related infections is to treat the clinical symptoms (e.g. fever). Supportive care (e.g. supportive therapy and monitoring-oxygen therapy, fluid management and antivirals) can be highly effective for those infected," states ECDC.
There are several precautions you can take to avoid being infected by COVID-19 virus. They are:
- You should always clean your hands by washing them with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub. This is to kill the virus that may be on your hands as a result of touching surfaces that may be contaminated by the virus.
- You should avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth with your hands. When you touch surfaces, you might pick up viruses which you'll give them an entry to your body through the eyes, mouth and nose.
- If you suspect or notice symptoms associated with COVID-19 or closely resembles this disease, ensure you keep your distance from the infected person. The recommended distance is between 3-6 feet. This is to avoid inhaling the small liquid droplets that are released from the infected person's nose when that person sneezes or coughs.
- Follow the good respiratory hygiene whether you're infected or not. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you sneeze or cough. Dispose the tissue immediately so as to avoid the virus from being transmitted through the droplets.
- If you are exhibiting or suspect you've COVID-19 symptoms, seek medical medical attention early on to avoid aggravating the symptoms and the possibility of spreading it to others.
Facts You Need to Pay Attention To
Remember some measures undertaken by some people to prevent them from getting the 2019-nCoV are not effective. As listed by WHO, they are:
- Taking traditional herbal remedies
- Wearing multiple masks
- Taking self-medication such as antibiotics
It is not clear if you can catch the new strain of virus when you touch surfaces that have been contaminated by the virus. Also, it is not evident how long the virus can survive on surfaces. Studies on coronaviruses indicate the viruses can stay on surfaces for a few hours or several days depending on the environment and climatic conditions. Nevertheless, it is better to observe the precaution measures to avoid the possibility of getting into contact with the virus. You can use simple disinfectants to clean surfaces to kill the virus on surfaces.
There is no evidence you can get the 2019 novel coronavirus from pets such as cats and dogs.
WHO cautions the public to avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. "Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices."
Wearing of Masks
WHO cautions people not to wear masks when they don't really need them. If you exhibit respiratory symptoms e.g. coughing and sneezing or are taking care of a person who is infected with COVID-19 virus, it is recommended you use a mask. This is to prevent transmitting the disease to others and from getting the virus. WHO states, "WHO recommends the use of masks for people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and for those caring for individuals who have symptoms, such as cough and fever."
Are Children Immune to Coronavirus Disease 2019?
Children are not immune to the novel coronavirus as several cases indicate children can get the coronavirus disease. Additionally, reports show several children have died from the respiratory disease. The numbers of children infected and dying from coronavirus disease is very low compared to adults.
Unlike in adults, children exhibit milder symptoms of the disease. Even so, children may develop severe symptoms if they are faced with underlying health conditions. However, data is limited to why there are fewer cases of children infected and dying from the disease, why they develop milder symptoms and if underlying health issues exacerbate worsening of symptoms in children.
CDC notes, "It is not known yet whether some children may be at a higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs. There is much more to be learned about how the disease impacts children."
© 2020 Alianess Benny Njuguna
Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on March 19, 2020:
Thank you, Raysal.
Raysal Rana on March 19, 2020:
Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Nairobi, Kenya on March 07, 2020:
Thank you, Bib. It is good to hear from you again.
True, there are reports that claim to be true but are in fact lies or myths. Some do it to gain readership not realizing the effects of their actions.
Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on March 03, 2020:
All viruses are terrifying, whether or not there is a treatment or process to cure. I think this fear is due to high-speed communication and sources of reporting that sometimes report "facts" that are inflated or outrate lies. I thank you for this article. I can see that you have been careful to be as accurate as possible. We all will wait and pray for this virus to run its course. Thank you, Bob.