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Coronavirus 2019 aka COVID-19 – An Informative Guide

Feb 28, 2020 | Blog

In any case, although the media reports and a collapsing global stock market may stoke further fears, the situation is not so bleak at present, and a vast majority of patients are only suffering from a milder form of the infection, and will recover from it.

This guide covers all the essential aspects of the coronavirus outbreak and its present outlook in detail, so that you are equipped to make safe and wise decisions for you and your loved ones.

Coronavirus 2019 aka COVID-19 – What is it?

You might be surprised to learn that a Coronavirus is a fairly common, infection-causing virus, much like the seasonal flu. In fact, it even shares many symptoms with the common flu, like a blocked or runny nose, heightened sinusitis, infection in the throat, etc.

Why then has it become such a terrifying issue, and is it really as deadly as it is made out to be? The answer is both yes and no.

Coronavirus first came into global perception during the late 1960s, but its origin is as yet undetermined. The virus can be of different types, with the most common strain only resulting in relatively harmless flu-like symptoms. The medical community also shares that almost everybody gets hit with this virus during their childhood, typically resulting in fever or the common cold.

While many strains of the virus are still unidentified, there have been three instances reported so far of widespread and potentially fatal infection across the globe. These include:

1.     MERS, 2014 – 2015

This originated in the Middle East, specifically in Saudi Arabia, with flu-like symptoms that quickly escalated into a fatal respiratory infection (hence, the name – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

Soon, it spread to other countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa. There were also 2 cases of MERS reported in the US in April that year. But perhaps the biggest fatalities came from its spread to Korea in 2015, and the virus outbreak affected over 800 people in total.

2.     SARS 2003

This was caused by a different strain from the MERS Coronavirus outbreak, and fatally affected over 700 people across the globe.

Note: Both types of the Coronavirus were considered fatal at the time of the outbreak, as they were unidentified until then, and thus without a readily available cure. Today, the medical community considers both these virus types to be containable, and thus no fresh cases have been reported since.

3.     COVID-19

This relates to the current outbreak, which first began in a small food market in Wuhan, China, late last year. As with previous outbreaks of the virus, this too is attributed to a different (and thus perhaps uncommon) strain of the humble Coronavirus.

It was named as “COVID-19” by the World Health Organization (WHO), as the virus gained global infamy early this year, as it began quickly spreading to other parts of the world.

It is these 3 fatal outbreaks that have caught public attention, and resulted in widespread paranoia about the original virus. Regardless of the type of Coronavirus, it is considered zoomatic, meaning that it affects both animals and humans.

In fact, researchers believe that the virus begins with animals (typically bats), and later progresses to humans through contact. Researchers also believe that the current outbreak of COVID-19 began with bats, later to snakes, eventually affecting humans.

COVID-19 – Symptoms to watch out for

Remember that the original virus strain causes symptoms that are eerily similar to the flu. So, this includes the common cold, throat infections, mild difficulty in breathing, fatigue, fever, coughing, etc.

But what differentiates the deadly strain from the common (manageable) virus, is the possibility of escalation of the infection. If the person infected has a weak immune system, it can lead to pneumonia or acute breathing problems, eventually leading to respiratory failure.

Is it contagious?

Yes it is, through person to person contact. This means that it can spread through any of the following means:

  • Direct contact with an animal or person already infected with COVID-19 (by touch, through hands, skin, etc.)
  • Through transfer of saliva.
  • Through breath. For instance, when an infected person coughs of sneezes, the respiratory droplets (wet semi-liquid coming out), can be carriers of the virus. When you breathe these in, you can catch the virus.
  • Through indirect contact, when you touch an object or person/animal that has been in contact with someone infected by the virus. This could include water taps, door handles, cutlery or any other inanimate objects (as these act as carriers of the virus).

If you have flu-like symptoms, should you be worried?

First, don’t panic. Remember that the common flu involves a comprehensive list of symptoms, including a blocked or runny nose, common cold, sore or itchy throat and other throat-related infections, headache, fever, shivering caused by chills, fatigue, frequent sneezing, coughing, and body aches.

As you can see, this is quite a common list of symptoms that people typically fall prey to, as seasons change.

Your symptoms need immediate medical attention when:

  • You have difficulty in breathing.
  • You have a cough that gets worse every day and lasts longer than 7-10 days.
  • You have fever that began with a mild temperature, but grows every day.

Do note that these symptoms are in no way comprehensive, and may be indicative of COVID-19. New information about the virus (including potential symptoms) is being discovered every day.

Are there any further complications, beyond flu-like symptoms?

Unfortunately, yes. This is what makes the disease so deadly!

Other potentially fatal complications that could arise from the COVID-19 disease include:

  • Pneumonia (This is the most common complication that has risen out of the present outbreak.)
  • Severe cardiac problems, including irregular or erratic heartbeat, cardio vascular shock, and heart attacks.
  • Chronic fatigue, which may lead to more serious nervous disorders. This can also include intense muscle pain (like myalgia).
  • Severe respiratory problems such as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), or even respiratory failure.

As you can see from the above list, COVID-19 typically affects the lungs and the heart. But in serious cases, in can also affect other parts and organs of the body, including the stomach, intestines, blood vessels, liver and the kidneys. In these cases, it is not so much the disease itself but the body’s response to the complications that causes the damage. (These may also be heightened by a weakened immune system.)

When should you panic?

Hopefully, never! But, you should seek immediate medical attention if:

  • You or someone you know has recently returned from China, where the COVID-19 virus first originated and is most prevalent.
  • You know someone who is infected with the COVID-19 virus, and you have had direct or indirect contact with them in the past couple of weeks.

Here, do note that the symptoms for COVID-19 can take anywhere between 2 to 14 days to manifest, after initial infection. The sooner it is discovered, the higher the chances of managing it.

Is there a cure for COVID-19?

At present, there is no cure that has been discovered. However, the medical and scientific research communities are hard at work, unearthing new information about the virus every day.

Also remember that too was the case with MERS and SARS. Once they came to global attention, it was only a matter of time before a cure was found. Likewise, the medical community is frantically working to cure/contain the present viral strain of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, doctors are working to manage current infections of the virus through:

  • Anti/retroviral medicines. With this, the intention is to slow down the rate at which the virus grows or replicates, thus containing the outbreak. However, this is not a permanent cure of the disease.
  • Medication to reduce any swelling of lungs and thus ease breathing. (This may be in the form of steroids.)
  • Provision of mechanical support (like ventilators) to ease/improve breathing.
  • Blood transfusions (typically only plasma), depending on severity of disease progression.

Will infection of the virus automatically lead to death?

This will come as a big relief, but the answer is a grateful No.

Based on current research (which is expanding every day), doctors have found that it can be fatal when the disease affects:

  • Elderly people. In fact, a whopping 14.8% of the people who were fatally infected by the disease were above 80 years of age. There were also no fatalities reported for those infected, if they were below 9 years of age.
  • People with weakened immune systems. (If you have an autoimmune disease, or a blood-related disorder, or have recently recovered from a prolonged illness, you may be more susceptible to the virus. However, there is still no cause to panic, unless you have recently returned from China or know someone who has.)

In other surprising results, studies indicate that men, especially over 45 years old, are more vulnerable to infection. (Yes, women seem to be the stronger force in fighting COVID-19!)

Global outlook so far

This guide is meant to help you stay updated and thus make informed decisions regarding potential COVID-19 infection. With this, here is a brief summary of statistics of the disease this year:

  • Over 80,000 cases of the disease have been reported to date.
  • Of these, 2,867 have proven fatal.
  • This means that over 36,700 cases have recovered from the disease.

Also – before you panic or reach for a mask or even consider quarantining yourself – do note that 60 cases have been reported in the US, of which 6 have already recovered. In addition, every attempt is being made to manage the 44,000+ cases still under infection all across the globe.

Precautionary measures you can and should take at this time

As that wise old adage goes, precaution is indeed a billion times (or more!) better than finding a late cure. For this reason, protect yourself and your loved ones with these simple measures.

  • Avoid visits to China, Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan – countries containing the top number for COVID-19 infection.
  • Wash your hands with soap and sanitizer frequently. This is especially necessary when you visit a public area (including hospitals, malls, restrooms, restaurants & bars, parks, etc.).
  • Maintain a high standard of hygiene in your home and workplace areas.
  • If you have touched objects in public areas, avoid touching your face until you have washed your hands. Also, warm water is preferable as it has a higher ability to kill bacteria and inactivate viruses.
  • If you have a weakened immune system, consult your doctor on ways to improve your immunity (including vitamin meds, nutritious diet, etc.)
  • Be sensitive to others when you have been recently sick with the flu, or even a cold/cough. Try to stay in until you have completely recovered, as you may otherwise become a potential carrier for bacteria or virus.
  • Ensure that you always cover your mouth with your hands/elbows when you cough or sneeze. If you can cover up with a tissue, this is best. Also make sure to dispose tissues immediately after use, so they do not inadvertently become live carriers of bacteria/virus.
  • Disinfect your surroundings on a daily basis, including objects that you come in frequent contact with (like your phone, laptop, door knobs, cutlery, etc.)
  • Wash all fresh produce thoroughly before use. Remember that it all started in a harmless food market in China. Also, the disease is considered zoomatic, transferred from animals to human. So be extra cautious with meat products.
  • Give your pets regularly baths. They will also enjoy the cooling effect considering the hot summertime season!

Critical Information

Information and numbers relating to COVID-19 are rapidly changing every moment. The latest updates on global statistics can be retrieved here. If you are worried about potential infection for you or someone you know, it is best to consult a doctor right away.