With all the paranoia around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s important to stay calm and in the know. The most recent statistics [from 14 March 2020] show that just over 142 300 individuals have contracted the virus. These numbers, and the nature of the international spread thereof, officially make it a pandemic, as confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Here’s all you need to know about the virus’ symptoms, types, and modes of transmission.
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Coronavirus (COVID-19): The Basics
Firstly, it’s important to know that coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that cause illness ranging from common colds to more severe forms of disease. These viruses can be transmitted between humans and animals. The WHO notes that “several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans”.
So what makes COVID-19 unique? And why is this specific coronavirus so threatening? In 2019, a dangerous new strain called SARS-CoV-2 started circulating. It is this strain that was causing the disease COVID-19.
The reason why the virus is so dangerous is because it is highly contagious and symptoms can only begin showing a few days after infection. This means that people could unknowingly be spreading this potentially deadly virus.
Moreover, we don’t have a vaccine for the virus (yet). This means that prevention cannot be medically assured at this point in time and the virus cannot be contained.
USA Today has reported that a potential vaccine could be more than a year away, despite medical researchers’ progress.
So far, there is no cure, so treatments include self-care and over-the-counter medication. People can however take several steps, including:
- Resting and avoiding overexertion
- Drinking enough water
- Avoiding smoking and smoky areas
- Using a clean humidifier to ease respiratory symptoms
- Ibuprofen can also be taken to reduce fever
Cold- or flu-like symptoms usually set in from 2-4 days after a coronavirus infection and are typically mild. However, symptoms vary from person-to-person, and some forms of the virus can be fatal. So when in doubt, it’s best to visit your local doctor and avoid contact with others.
Typical symptoms include:
- A runny nose
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
The WHO has also reported that in more severe cases, “infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.”
Watch for symptoms of COVID-19!
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— NBT WORLD News (@NBTWORLDNews) March 13, 2020
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Different types of human coronaviruses vary in how severe the resulting disease becomes, and how far it can spread. Doctors currently recognize seven types of coronavirus that can infect humans.
Common types include:
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
Rarer strains that cause more severe complications include MERS-CoV, which causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). And SARS-CoV, the virus responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
According to the WHO, the virus is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than one meter away from a person who is sick.
COVID-19: Minimise Your Risk
There are a few basic things you can do to minimise your risk of contracting the virus. The WHO reports that you should:
- Wash your hands frequently. Use alcohol-based hand sanitisers to kill any nasty bacteria that could be hiding out on your hands. Also make an effort to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water multiple times a day.
- Keep a comfortable distance. If you see someone coughing or sneezing, try to stay at least one meter away from them. Additionally, try your best to avoid overly-crowded spaces like airports, malls, and event venues.
- Avoid touching your face. Specifically, steer clear of touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Your hands touch so many surfaces throughout the day, so they can pick up the virus and transfer it to your most vulnerable places.
- Be considerate of your respiratory health. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the used tissue immediately.
- If you’re feeling ill, seek care immediately. This is super important! If you have a fever, cough and have difficulty breathing, then seek medical attention. Also stay home if you are feeling unwell.
Have a look at this WHO video that outlines what you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19:
By Features Writer Ashton Kirsten