Coronavirus (COVID – 19)
Beginning December 2019, we have been hearing about a family of viruses known as coronaviruses. There are 69 known species of these coronaviruses. Seven of them can affect humans. The others of this virus species are contracted by animals, mostly pigs, bats, and other small mammals.
Healthcare providers have known about these viruses since the 1960s. From 2002 to 2003, the general population began to hear of them due to an outbreak of one of a new strain of coronavirus that occurred in China. Eventually, this virus was called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The epidemic spread to twenty-four countries around the world. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 8,000 cases were reported. The mortality rate was between 9.5 to 10 percent.
Another new strain of coronavirus emerged in Saudi Arabia about ten years later, with an extremely high mortality rate of 35 percent. That epidemic spread to twenty-one countries before it was contained. Two thousand four hundred people were affected. Eight hundred people died. This virus was called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
The next new strain of coronavirus emerged in December 2019. The first reports emerged, once again in China, specifically in Wuhan province. The virus has been referred to as SARS Covid-2, and the disease as COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease, 2019).
There have been rumors that this coronavirus has mutated. No mutation has been recognized by healthcare officials.
Since December 2019, this COVID-19 has spread to over 115 nations. As of March 11, there have been more than 126,300 reported cases. Of these, 68,285 patients have recovered fully. There are 53,382 cases considered active. Of the active cases, 89 percent have minor conditions, and the rest are in severe or critical conditions. More than 4,633 people have died.
Transmission occurs via small droplets of liquid from coughs and/or sneezes. It can also be transmitted by touching objects these droplets have touched. The virus enters through the mucosa in the mouth, nose, or eyes. The incubation period has been estimated to be between two and fourteen days.
The coronavirus can live outside the body from several hours to several days. Viruses are microscopic organisms that live inside cells. They only live as long as the cell they inhabit is alive. If the surface the virus is located on is wet it may remain alive for several days. If the surface is dry, the virus may die within hours.
It is estimated that an infected patient will transmit the virus to 2.6 people on average. Most cases of COVID-19 have been reported in someone who has been in contact with others infected by the virus. However, there have been cases where the disease appeared without any contact with someone infected.
The closer someone is to the infected person, the greater the risk of being infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers “close contact” to be about six feet away from another person.
Twenty percent of patients never develop symptoms. The common symptoms are fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms are similar to those of influenza.
Symptoms remain mild in 85 to 89 percent of cases, but 11 to 15 percent of cases progress to severe or critical symptoms. These patients will have respiratory distress, pneumonia, and even hypotension or septic shock.
The most important preventative measure is frequent hand washing. Hand sanitizer can also be used.
For medical personnel who handle cases of COVID-19, the use of gloves, gowns, and goggles are recommended.
It is also recommended that, until this epidemic is considered to be under control, we minimize physical contact with other people (examples: shaking hands, hugging, kissing, and so on).
If you are planning to travel to a country where the number of cases has increased, the recommendation is to not travel until the coronavirus pandemic has been contained.
This week Italy has declared a total quarantine. A few hours ago Italy closed most shops and restaurants, with the exception of pharmacies and supermarkets.
The state of California suspended all meetings of more than a thousand people, and these measures are likely to be tightened in the immediate future.
President Donald Trump decreed a few hours ago the suspension of all flights from Europe.
The average mortality rate of COVID-19 is around 3.4 percent. The highest mortality rate was reported in Italy, estimated at 6 percent. The lowest mortality rate was reported in South Korea, estimated at 0.7 percent.
It is important to note that the mortality rate of this novel COVID-19 is not comparable to the two coronaviruses mentioned above. In reality, the mortality of this pandemic will probably be lower than reported, since up to 20 percent of patients remain completely asymptomatic, which means they will remain undiagnosed.
The highest-risk patients are those older than sixty years of age and those who suffer from a chronic disease, either respiratory or others such as diabetes mellitus or renal failure.
The mortality rate may end up 1 percent or less, according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The common flu in the U.S. has a mortality rate of approximately 0.1 percent. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) in Atlanta estimates that in the current flu season, between 20,000 and 50,000 people will die in the U.S.
The worldwide alarm over COVID-19 is due to the number of infected patients, not the mortality rate. The increasing number of patients makes the number of deaths from this virus potentially very high.
Millions of people will be affected by COVID-19 by the time this pandemic ends. This could produce hundreds of thousands of deaths unless we develop a vaccine or some kind of treatment quickly.
Most experts say we will not have a vaccine before the next 12 to 18 months. Antivirals are being tested, but there is currently no official recommendation for these drugs.