What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). A new virus called the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been identified as the cause of a disease outbreak that began in China. The disease is called COVID-19.
There isn’t much known about this new virus yet. Public health groups, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are monitoring the situation and posting updates on their websites. These groups have also issued recommendations for preventing and treating the illness.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Signs and symptoms of infection with the new coronavirus may appear two to 14 days after exposure and can include:
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
The severity of the new coronavirus symptoms can range from very mild to severe, even death. Although understanding of this disease continues to grow, most people with severe illness have been of an older age or had other significant existing medical conditions. This is similar to what is seen in people who have severe infections with other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza.
What are the causes of COVID-19?
It’s unclear exactly how contagious the new coronavirus is or how it spreads. It appears to be spreading from person to person among those in close contact. It may be spread by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes.
It needs to be established if a person can catch the virus by touching a surface that an infected person has touched, and then putting his or her hand to the mouth. However air-borne transmission cannot be ruled out.
Which are the contributing risk factors of COVID-19?
Risk factors for infection with the new coronavirus appear to include:
- Recent travel from or residence in China
- Close contact with someone who has the new coronavirus — such as when a family member or health care worker takes care of an infected person
People who are older or who have other existing medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, may be at higher risk of becoming seriously ill with the new coronavirus.
How can we prevent spread of COVID-19?
Although there is no vaccines currently available to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, few preventive steps help to reduce risk of infection.
WHO and CDC recommends the following standard precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands are not clean.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you are sick.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch.
- Stay home from work, school and public areas if you are sick.
WHO also recommends to :
- Contact your doctor if you have a fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, and tell about your recent travel history.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or animal organs.
- Avoid contact with live animals and surfaces they may have touched if you are visiting live markets in areas that have recently had new coronavirus cases.
If you are planning to travel internationally, first check travel advisories. You may also want to talk with your doctor if you have health conditions that make you more susceptible to respiratory infections and complications.
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Corona Virus and COVID -19: What you should know?
What is a Corona Virus?
Coronaviruses are common type of viruses that cause an infection in the nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous.
Corona-viruses cause most of the common colds that affect us throughout the year, but they are not a serious threat to healthy people.
What is COVID-19?
Corona Virus Infectious Disease 2019(COVID-19) is an infectious /communicable disease leading to sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by SARS-CoV-2 which is a corona virus.
SARS-CoV-2 is one of the seven types of coronaviruses, including those that cause serious illnesses such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
SARS-CoV-2 affects the upper respiratory passage like sinuses, nose and throat or the lower respiratory passage like trachea and lungs.
It spreads in the same way as other coronaviruses, mainly through person-to-person contact. Infections range from mild to severe.
After an outbreak in December 2019 in China, in early 2020, the World Health Organization(WHO) identified SARS-CoV-2 as a new type of coronavirus. The outbreak spread rapidly throughout the world.
Is there more than one strain of SARS-CoV-2?
Coronaviruses cells have all their genetic material in something called RNA (ribose nucleic acid). When viruses infect you, they attach to your cells, get inside them, and make copies of their RNA, which helps them spread. If there’s a copying mistake, the RNA gets changed. Scientists call those changes mutations.
These changes happen randomly and by accident. It’s a normal part of what happens to viruses as they multiply and spread.
A Chinese study of 103 cases of COVID-19 suggests the mutation in the virus. They found two strains, which they named L and S. Those two types are very similar, with slight differences in two places. Type S is older, but type L was more common in the early stages of the outbreak. They think that one may cause more cases of the disease than the other, but they are still working on the process.
How long will the coronavirus pandemic last?
It is too early to say how long the pandemic will continue. It depends on many things, including the researchers’ work to learn more about the virus, their search for a treatment and a vaccine, and the public’s efforts to delay the spread.
The best way to stop spread is social distancing, hand hygiene and wearing a mask.
How does coronavirus spread?
SARS-CoV-2, the virus, spreads mainly from person to person.
Most of the time, it spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. They can spray drops up to 6 feet away. If you inhale or swallow them, the virus can enter your body. Some people who have the virus do not have symptoms, but they can still transmit the virus (carriers).
You can also contract the virus by touching a surface or object on which the virus is present and then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly your eyes.
Most viruses can live for several hours on a surface where they land. A study shows that SARS-CoV-2 can last for several hours on various types of surfaces:
- Copper: 4 hours.
- Cardboard: up to 24 hours.
- Plastic or stainless steel: 2 to 3 days.
Can the coronavirus be transmitted through food, packages or food?
You are much more likely to get COVID-19 from someone else than from packages, groceries, or food. If you’re in a high-risk group, stay home and use a delivery service or have a friend buy for you. Ask them to leave the items outside their front door, if you can. If you do your own shopping, try to stay at least 6 feet away from other buyers. If that’s not always possible, wear a cloth face mask then.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after bringing things home. The coronavirus can remain on hard surfaces, so clean and disinfect countertops and anything else your bags have touched. If desired, you can clean plastic, metal or glass containers with soap and water.
There is no evidence that anyone has obtained COVID-19 from food.
What is a Community Spread?
Doctors and health officials use this term when they do not know the source of the infection. With COVID-19, it generally refers to someone who contracts the virus even though they have not been out of the country or have not been exposed to someone who has travelled abroad or who has COVID-19.
COVID-19 infection has a community spread.
How fast and far is COVID 19 spreading?
It is a pandemic –it is spreading through several countries and communities fast. It takes about 2-14 days to get infected after being exposed to the virus.
How contagious is the coronavirus?
Transmission speed is relatively high. The first investigations have estimated that a person who has it can spread it to 2 and 2.5 persons.One study found that the rate was higher, and one case spreads to 4.7 to 6.6 more people.
So it is very important to wash your hands frequently, keeping common surfaces clean, limiting contact with others, and wearing face masks when we cannot be 6 feet away from others.
What To Do
Call your doctor or local health department if you think you’ve been exposed and have symptoms like:
- Fever of 100̊ F or higher
- Trouble breathing
In most states, decisions about who gets tested for COVID-19 are made at the state or local health authority level.
Mainly there are two types of tests which are commonly conducted. Both have their defined specificities and sensitivities and significance.
- RT-PCR Test (Real Time –Polymerase chain reaction) which looks for the presence of the virus. It is done using swab collected from the nose/throat. It is also called as swab test.
- Antibody Test: It looks for the antibodies which are formed in the body when it is attacked by the virus. It is done using blood.
A swab test looks for signs of the virus in the upper respiratory tract i.e nose and throat. The person doing the test places a swab up in the nose to collect a sample from the back of your nose and throat. That sample usually goes to a lab that looks for the viral material using a high resolution machine (RT-PCR). If there are signs of the virus, the test is positive. A negative test could mean there is no virus or there wasn’t enough to measure. That can happen early in an infection. It usually takes 24 hours to get results, but the tests must be collected, stored, shipped to a lab, and processed.
An antibody test can show whether you have ever been exposed to the virus, even if you did not have the symptoms. This blood test can be used both for diagnosis and population surveillance. The antibody test shows how many people had the disease with minor symptoms or no symptoms (asymptomatic).This test can also help determine progression of the disease in the community and the level of herd immunity in the population. However, the test may have rates of false positives and false negatives since duration and effectiveness of the immune response to the virus are still unclear.
No kits are available to test the virus at home.
When it is not possible to conduct any tests another option is to look for lung damage via chest X ray or CT scan or low oxygen take up.
What are the Symptoms COVID-19?
The main symptoms include:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Chills, sometimes with tremors
- Body pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of smell or taste
The virus can cause pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock, and death. Many complications of COVID-19 can be caused by a condition known as cytokine release syndrome or cytokine storm. This is when an infection cause’s immune system to flood the bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines. They can kill tissues and damage organs.
If you notice the following serious symptoms in yourself or a loved one, seek medical help immediately:
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Continuous pain or pressure in the chest.
- New confusion
- Cannot fully wake up
- Bluish lips or face
Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19. Remember FAST:
- Face. Is one side of the person’s face numb or sagging? Is your smile crooked?
- Arms. Is your arm weak or numb? If they try to lift both arms, does one arm sink?
- Speech. Can they speak clearly? Ask them to repeat a sentence.
- Time. Every minute counts when someone shows signs of a stroke.
If infected, symptoms can appear in as little as 2 days or as long as 14. It varies from person to person.
According to researchers, these were the most common symptoms among people who had COVID-19:
- Fever 99%
- Fatigue 70%
- Cough 59%
- Lack of appetite 40%
- Body pain 35%
- Shortness of breath 31%
- Mucus / phlegm 27%
Some people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 also have dangerous blood clots, including in the legs, lungs, and arteries.
What to do if you think you have it?
If you live or have travelled to an area where COVID-19 is spreading:
- If you don’t feel well, stay home. Even if you have mild symptoms, such as a headache and a runny nose, stay until you get better. This allows doctors to focus on the people who are most seriously ill and protects health workers and people who may be on the road. You may hear this called self-quarantine.
- Call the doctor if you have trouble breathing. You need to get medical help as soon as possible. Calling ahead (rather than showing up) will allow the doctor to direct you to the right place, which may not be your doctor’s office. If you don’t have a regular doctor, call your local health board. They can tell you where to go for tests and treatment.
- Follow your doctor’s advice and stay up-to-date with the news about COVID-19. Between your doctor and the health care authorities, you will get the care you need and information on how to prevent the spread of the virus.
How do I know if it is COVID-19, a cold or the flu?
COVID-19 symptoms may be similar to a bad cold or flu. Your doctor will suspect COVID-19 if:
- You have a fever and a cough.
- Live in an area with the virus or have travelled to places where it has spread.
Is COVID-19 worse than the flu?
Unlike the flu, many people are not immune to the coronavirus because it is so new. If you catch it, the virus activates your body to make things called antibodies. Coronavirus also appears to cause higher rates of serious illness and death than influenza. But the symptoms themselves can vary widely from person to person.
Is COVID-19 seasonal like the flu?
Some laboratory studies have found that higher temperatures and humidity levels could help delay the spread of the coronavirus. But experts advise caution and say climate changes won’t be important without public health efforts.