What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that routinely affect humans in the form of mild to moderate upper respiratory illnesses. Most people will be infected with various human strains of coronavirus throughout their lives. These viruses often result in the common cold, but may also cause bronchitis or pneumonia. Animals are also affected by different coronavirus strains. On occasion, an animal coronavirus will infect a human. And very rarely, that infection will begin to transmit from human to human. This was the case in 2003 with SARS-CoV, which started in Southern China; and MERS-CoV first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
This same rare chain of events has spawned the new coronavirus epidemic, which causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. For that reason, the virus is called SARS-CoV-2; as the SARS outbreak in 2003 was the first. The illness caused by this novel coronavirus has been named COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019)
This respiratory virus attacks lung tissue and airways, and as such, can lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, organ failure, and in severe cases can result in death.
What Are the Symptoms?
Persons with COVID-19 present with typical flu-like symptoms including fever, cough, fatigue, body aches, and difficulty breathing – sometimes severe.
What Makes This Coronavirus Different From Others?
This is a novel – or new – coronavirus because it has not previously been identified in humans; however, it behaves in similar ways to other strains of the virus. Like SARS (2003) and influenza (the flu), COVID-19 has no cure; has similar preventative measures, symptoms, and treatment; and has a high recovery rate, but can also lead to respiratory distress, pneumonia and sometimes death. COVID-19 has four big differences:
- It is highly contagious with an up to 14 day incubation period;
- It seems to target the sick and elderly above all other demographic groups;
- Its newness precludes evolutionary immunity buildup at this time; and
- Unlike the flu, there is currently no vaccine.
Despite the availability of a fairly robust vaccine, the flu hits us annually with around one billion cases worldwide, taking up to a half million lives every year.
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency just over a month ago, scientists and medical professionals have been scrambling to gather information to determine transmissibility, rate of contagion, incubation period, symptoms, severity, and primary vectors. That information is being used to best track possible outcomes, inform the public, manage the strain on health systems, and minimize loss of life.
But make no mistake, a virus cannot be stopped any more than the common cold or the flu has been stopped. It can possibly be slowed in its spread rate or area and it can be managed once it is contracted. On a positive note, scientists have been able to use historic data from previous, similar outbreaks to generate hypotheses and possible outcomes, as well as to create plans and systems to minimize the spread of the virus.
Some Facts Authorities Have Ascertained:
- Recovery rate for those with COVID-19 is currently around 97%.
- COVID-19 is highly contagious; therefore, keeping atleast 5-6 feet away from an infected person and their area can reduce the risk of transmission.
- All demographics run the risk of contracting COVID-19, however …
- Children, teens, and those in their 20’s appear to be less likely to contract COVID-19.
- Healthy persons under 50 years old who contract COVID-19 are recovering almost 100% of the time.
- At risk for severe cases or possible death are:
- Persons with medical conditions or compromised immune systems;
- Persons over the age of 60, especially those with medical conditions.
- Mortality rate is believed to be around 3% overall, and:
- Underreporting undiagnosed cases can potentially lower that number;
- ≅21% mortality rate for individuals over 80 years of age and ≅8% of those over 70 years old and less than 0.5% of those under 60 years old;
- ≅ 87% cases are mild and ≅13% cases are serious or critical.
Statistics: How Does it Compare to Other Viruses?
2003 SARSCoV: over 8,000 cases, ≅700 deaths worldwide, 26 countries
2012 MERS-CoV: ≅2,500 cases, ≅800 deaths worldwide, 27 countries
COVID-19: as of 3/8/20: >111,000 cases identified, approx 4,000 deaths worldwide and rising, 64 countries and rising; ≅80% of all cases and deaths are in China
FLU: ≅1 billion cases, 300,00-650,000 deaths worldwide PER YEAR
How is COVID-19 Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for this novel coronavirus; neither is there a cure. As with other viruses, including the flu, it must run its course with the body’s immune system as the primary line of both offense and defense. Infected persons can be kept comfortable with fever and pain reducing medications, as well as oxygen supplementation; however, each body must cure itself.
As is the case, humans can develop a certain level of immunity to various viruses; but, due to its novel nature, immunities have not yet had a chance to build up to assist in reducing the spread of this virus. Science does not know how much of that will play a part in future spread.
The same treatment recommended for influenza applies here: rest, fluids, fever reducing medications, and oxygen supplements when necessary.
How Can We Reduce the Spread of COVID-19 and Other Viruses?
Realistically, this virus will spread; that is what viruses do. All people in the world community must exercise safe health practices as set forth by the Centers for Disease Control, Health and Human Services and others in order to minimize its spread. The same recommendations apply to all infectious diseases and illnesses, including the annual flu. These include: staying home when sick; frequent and thorough handwashing; not touching your eyes, nose,and mouth; covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing; cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at regular intervals; and keeping your distance from sick people and those you know may have been exposed to the virus.
At the End of the Day …
In the recent past, we have been faced with both nationwide epidemics and worldwide pandemics. This virus is challenging, but does not currently seem insurmountable. In fact, the number of new cases in China appear to be levelling off and declining – along the typical arc of a new viral outbreak. As COVID-19 marches on to other countries and continents, prior trajectories suggest the number of cases in each new territory will balloon and possibly spike before waning.
There are tens of thousands of cases of COVID-19 and the number of cases is increasing daily, yet the number of overall fatalities still hovers around 3%. History and medical science tell us it will get worse before it gets better.
We must keep our heads about us, be vigilant, be responsible, and stay grounded in facts as this epidemic rages onward.
[…] deadly flu seasons. Although it’s more nuanced and scientific, for the average layperson, COVID-19 can be likened to a different strain of the flu; only, your flu shot won’t work on it. So, stay away from sick people, wash your hands, don’t […]