The coronavirus, or COVID-19, is inciting panic for a number of reasons. It’s a new virus, meaning no one has immunity, and there is no vaccine.
Coronaviruses are enveloped positive-stranded RNA viruses in the order of Nidovirale. The virions have a crown-like appearance under the electron microscope, which is why the viruses are named after the Latin word corona, meaning ‘crown’ or ‘halo’. Coronaviruses were identified in the mid-1960s and are known to infect humans and a variety of animals (including birds and mammals). Epithelial cells in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract are the primary target cells. Due to these characteristics, viral shedding occurs via these systems and transmission can occur through different routes: fomites, airborne or faecal-oral.
To date, seven coronaviruses have been shown to infect humans.
In late 2019, a novel coronavirus related to a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China (SARS-CoV-2) was identified. The SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to SARS-CoV and genetically clusters within Betacoronavirus subgenus Sarbecovirus.
How do I get Covid-19?
There are a lot of acronyms floating around, so first, just know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the coronavirus) causes the disease Covid-19. The virus is most commonly spread by close contact with infected people who are within 6 feet of each other. When they cough or sneeze, they send droplets into the air, where they can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly get inhaled into the lungs. Droplets containing the virus can also land on surfaces and objects where the virus can survive for some time.
The transmission can be prevented. Good personal hygiene and social distancing can be very effective. Washing your hands frequently and carefully for at least 20 seconds is better than using hand sanitizer because it actually destroys the chemical structure of the virus. Any old soap will break the virus’s outer coating, and you don’t need special antibacterial soap. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol.
Avoid handshakes or hugs with people who’ve been out and about, and whenever possible, stay at least 6 feet away from others. This includes minimizing or avoiding play dates, sleepovers, shared meals, going out to eat, and visits to friends’ and family members’ homes.
What are the symptoms of Covid-19?
The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are a fever, seen in almost 90 percent of patients, as well as a dry cough and shortness of breath. The incubation period before symptoms appear ranges from one to 14 days, but the median is 5.1 days. If you’ve been around someone who has a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19 or displays its symptoms, the most responsible thing to do is to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Do I really need to worry about getting sick or spreading the virus to others?
Yes. Because social distancing works best if everyone practices it. No one has immunity, and everyone can get sick and spread the virus to others. Without protective measures, one person on average infects 2.5 others, and cases will spread exponentially. That means hospitals and medical staff will quickly become overwhelmed. At least 5 percent of Covid-19 patients may need intensive care, and many require hospitalization for weeks.
What should I do?
If you have one or more symptoms of the new coronavirus, call your doctor. If you are older or have underlying medical conditions, it’s even more important to call your doctor, even if you have only mild symptoms. Many health care facilities are requesting that you wear a mask if you have symptoms and are going in for testing. Your doctor will determine whether you should be tested.
Click here to get the latest news and updates about COVID-19.