On 7 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that 100 000 people have been infected by COVID-19, a novel coronavirus strain. The following day, it was reported that the virus had spread to 100 countries. These numbers are rapidly increasing (read more here) and distressing in many ways, but what exactly is COVID-19? And why is it a global pandemic?
What is the novel coronavirus strain (COVID-19)?
According to the WHO, coranaviruses are a large family of respiratory illnesses. They range from diseases like the common cold to more critical infections such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). It’s important to note that coronaviruses are also transmittable between animals and people.
In December 2019, a novel coronavirus case was first detected in Wuhan City, China. Calling it ‘novel’ meant that the virus had not yet been identified.
Earlier reports even referred to it as an unknown form of pneumonia. Medical research eventually showed that it was an entirely unique coronavirus strain. The strain has been given the name COVID-19, and because it is a new disease, there is no vaccine available, as yet.
What makes COVID-19 threatening?
Similarly to regular flu, COVID-19 disseminates into the air via coughing and sneezing. It also spreads through physical contact like shaking hands. You’re able to contract the virus by touching a surface which an infected person has coughed or sneezed on, too. This is primarily what makes the virus slightly difficult to contain.
Those who become infected may also take up to two weeks before showing any symptoms. Subsequently, some people may continue to interact with others without knowing they’re infected.
Symptoms that eventually develop include a persistent cough, fever, and shortness of breath.
What is the current state of COVID-19?
Since its first reported case in December, COVID-19 has officially become an international outbreak. Speaking at a COVID-19 media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic. Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear.”
🚨 BREAKING 🚨
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 11, 2020
To date, there are 164,837 confirmed cases internationally, including 61 cases in South Africa. The reported number of deaths from the virus has also risen to 6,470. Among this toll are mostly elders, and people with already-compromised immune systems. Watch live updates here.
What can you do to protect yourself?
There are a number of small things every individual can do to prevent spreading the disease further:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing
- Cook meat and eggs thoroughly
- Avoid any contact with an individual showing symptoms of a respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing
"There are 10 basic things that you should know.
1⃣clean your 👐 regularly with an alcohol-based hand rub, or wash them with 🧼 & 💧.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 28, 2020
ALSO SEE: How To Make Your Own Hand Sanitiser
The WHO also released a video, offering a short summary and introduction to the 2019 novel coronavirus. Watch the video below:
How can we helps others?
Remaining informed about COVID-19’s development is the most important thing you can do. Containing the virus should become a priority, so make sure you do your part to hinder it from spreading.
Recommend that someone visit a doctor if you notice they’re feeling ill. A joint humanitarian effort will undoubtedly ward off further contamination.
ALSO SEE: Boost Your Immune System With Good Sleep
By Features Writer Marike Watson