Coronavirus seems to be spreading across the world like wildfire. The reports on the news channels and the visuals of masked people and doctors are enough to make people panic. But what is this Coronavirus and how dangerous it really is?
Here’s all you need to know about Coronavirus
Coronavirus is a family of viruses. Not all of them are deadly.
As per World Health Organization, Coronavirus (CoV) is a family of viruses that cause mild to severe illness like the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The virus that’s wreaking havoc around the world these days is a new strain of Coronavirus. A new and unidentified strain of this virus is called novel Coronavirus (nCoV). The latest Coronavirus strain that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 Dec 2019 has been named SARS-CoV-2. And the disease it is causing is called COVID-19.
COVID-19 is proving to be more contagious than previous coronavirus infections (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-Co-V)). It spreads by human-to-human transmission via droplets from coughing or sneezing, fecal or direct contact. The incubation period of COVID-19 is 1 to 14 days (usually 3 to 7 days). The biggest danger is that the infection can be transmitted even during the incubation period when people aren’t aware they have COVID-19.
2. Coronaviruses are zoonotic.
Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people. The SARS-CoV was transmitted to humans from civet cats. The MERS-CoV was transmitted from camels. Researchers are still not sure which animal transmits the SARS-CoV-2. But it is certain that its first victims worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market. That is where they might have come in contact with this new strain of CoV.
SARS-CoV-2 can also be transmitted from human to human through “droplet transmission.” This means this virus can pass from one person to another through sneezing, coughing, or direct contact.
3. Symptoms of Coronavirus infection or COVID-19 disease:
COVID-19 primarily manifests as an acute respiratory illness with pneumonia. In severe cases, it may affect multiple organs such as the kidney, heart, digestive tract, blood, and nervous system. The common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever (98%), cough (76%), and myalgia and fatigue (18% each). Symptoms like running nose and productive cough are uncommon, except in children.
In most cases, the symptoms remain mild and cause only flu-like illness that resolves spontaneously. These include respiratory symptoms, coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, and fever. However, about 16-20% of cases can be ‘severe’ or ‘critical’. And these can lead to organ damage and mortality. In severe cases, SARS-CoV-2 can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, and kidney failure. These can prove fatal.
4. What makes COVID-19 disease so dangerous?
As this is a viral infection, doctors can’t treat it with antibiotics. The currently available antiviral medicines are ineffective against it. And there is no vaccine yet available for this new strain of Coronavirus. It can cause severe pneumonia and organ failure. Those with a weak immune system get more seriously affected.
The epicenter of its outbreak has recorded a 2% mortality rate among patients of this disease. It is lesser in other affected areas. Comparatively, the seasonal flu has a mortality rate below 1% and it causes about 400,000 deaths every year globally.
Most of the people who died because of COVID-19 were already in poor health. The elderly and people with existing respiratory or immune disorders are more severely affected by it. A strong and healthy person has a better chance of recovering from this infection.
5. Why SARS-CoV-2 is a medical emergency?
The first case of COVID-19 disease was reported in China on 31st December 2019. In a short period, SARS-CoV-2 has spread to over 80 countries and has affected nearly 100,000 people worldwide. Over 3,300 deaths caused by COVID-19 have already been reported. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic.
6. What can you do to stay safe from Coronavirus?
There are some simple steps you can take to stay safe from SARS-CoV-2.
- Avoid going to countries affected by it.
- Follow social distancing. Avoid crowded places or wear a protective mask in such areas.
- Wash your hands often and maintain good personal hygiene.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes frequently.
- Stay away from people showing respiratory symptoms like coughing and sneezing.
- Make sure the animal products you are eating are thoroughly cooked.