- Coronavirus vs COVID-19
- Where did it start?
- How did it get to humans?
- How does it spread?
- What are the symptoms?
- Is COVID 19 going to kill us all?
- Risk of death if infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) by age
- Risk of death from coronavirus (COVID-19) if you have a preexisting condition
- So, why do we have quarantines and shutdowns?
- Proper handwashing guidelines
- Should you be freaking out?
- Is there a vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19)?
- How do doctors currently treat coronavirus?
- Should you listen to me?
Coronaviruses are actually a group of viruses that cause respiratory infection. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a member of this family. Other members are viruses like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). When you look at coronaviruses under an electron microscope, you can see a “corona” or “halo” around them. Because of this, they’ve called coronaviruses (pictured above). Below is a slight background on the virus and the answer to, “Will COVID19 kill us all?”.
Where did it start?
COVID-19 is a member of this family. This disease started out in Wuhan, China. Epidemiologists believe that this virus jumped from animals to humans in a wet market in this city. Like it shows in the picture below, Chinese wet markets are large open areas where meats and live animals are sold. Here people and wild animals come into direct contact. Most of the animals here are not farmed but hunted which exposes them to more diseases in the wild.
How did it get to humans?
Scientists believe that the virus made a jump from bats to humans in one of these wet markets. This is because bats carry many different types of coronaviruses and the sequence of COVID-19 is extremely similar to a bat virus that was found in some caves in China. This has led experts to hypothesize that bats are the origin of this disease. A precursor to the COVID-19 virus may have transmitted from a bat to one of the animals in the Chinese wet market. Someone interacting with the meat or the live animal itself is what may have resulted in the transmission of the virus to people.
How does it spread?
COVID-19 spreads from person to person in a few different ways:
- Respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs
- Contaminated surfaces and objects
- Through contact with an infected person
When someone is infected if you are in close proximity to that person, the virus can travel to you. This happens primarily through droplets in the air. These are ejected from our mouths when we sneeze or cough. If you look at the picture from Mythbusters below, you can see a visual example of this. These droplets hover in the air for a short amount of time and are one of the primary ways that a respiratory virus like COVID-19 can spread.
If these droplets land on a surface the virus can remain on that spot for a while. Touching a surface like this and then touching your face can also result in the spread of the virus. Sadly people who are sick with COVID-19 are most contagious when they are the sickest and need the most help. Research has shown that people can also spread the virus prior to showing symptoms, but this is not the main way it spreads. (source)
What are the symptoms?
According to the CDC and initial research out of China, symptoms have been far-ranging. Since this is a respiratory disease, most of the initial symptoms affect the lungs. Below are a list and chance of symptoms from the world health organization (WHO).
|Coughed up mucus||33.4%|
|Shortness of breath||18.6%|
|Muscle pain or tenderness||14.8%|
|Nausea or vomiting||5.0%|
|Traces of blood in cough||0.9%|
- Severe symptoms: (Get medical attention immediately)
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
- Source: CDC
Is COVID 19 going to kill us all?
People most at risk are those that have a compromised immune system or those that have a serious chronic medical condition. The current risks of death from this virus are low for some populations and high for others. The Chinese center for disease control published an analysis of more than 72,000 coronaviruses (COVID-19) cases in China and we have graphed their results for you below.
As of today, the WHO estimates there are 1,210,956 confirmed total cases of COVID-19 with 67,594 deaths globally. The organization adds that with in the last 24 hours, there have been an estimated 77,200 new cases with 4,810 deaths. These are all estimates and with data being hard to obtain from certain regions, these estimates are most likely lower than the actual numbers. (source)
What does this mean?
According to this initial data out of China, there are both positives and negatives. The younger populations don’t seem to be affected by this virus; which is great news for young children and worried parents. Older adults are at much higher risk for fatal complications from this disease, especially if they certain preexisting conditions. Because COVID19 is a respiratory virus, smokers are also at higher risk of this disease. The overall mortality rate is ~1% and for people under 50, its almost 0. We’re not trying to say that’s good, because clearly, any mortality rate is bad.
So, why do we have quarantines and shutdowns?
Being a respiratory virus like SARS or MERS, COVID-19 can easily spread through respiratory droplets, giving it a high transmission rate. This means that it can, and likely will, spread through our population. This is why the quarantines and closures are in effect. The people at the highest risk are older adults who have a weakened immune system or a chronic disease. For the protection of these weakened individuals, it’s important for the rest of us to properly wash our hands, avoid close contact with sick individuals, reduce its spread and stay home if we’re sick (along with other CDC recommendations).
- Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
- Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
- Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.
- If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
- Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.
- Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
- Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
- Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
- Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
- Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of mask.
- Do not reuse single-use masks.
- Source: WHO
Proper handwashing guidelines
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals. (Information from the CDC)
Follow these five steps every time.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Should you be freaking out?
Short answer: no. While this disease is extremely contagious, we will get through it just like we did with SARS, MERS, Swine flu, EBOLA, and many others. The most important thing is to keep an eye on the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) and not panic. For most individuals, the symptoms of COVID-19 will be similar to the flu. For high-risk individuals, like older adults and those who suffer from medical conditions, I would recommend following the CDC guidelines on this page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/high-risk/high-risk-complications.html.
Clinical trials for a vaccine candidate are currently underway (NIH link). Vaccine development is a lengthy process to ensure proper human response and proper resistance to the disease. Current estimates put a vaccine out to sometime in 2021.
Due to the lack of a vaccine, doctors currently work on keeping fluids up and allowing the body’s immune system to clear the virus. Eating a healthy diet, reducing stress, exercising and getting good sleep can assist in keeping a healthy immune system. Antiviral therapies can be administered in addition to proper care, but it is currently unknown if they are beneficial or helpful with this virus. For an extreme case where breathing issues can occur doctors may add ventilators or other measures for assistance. Keep in mind that since this is a virus and not a bacteria, antibiotics will not assist in the clearing of COVID19. Full recovery times from this virus have averaged around 2 weeks to a month. For severe cases, this can take much longer.
Should you listen to me?
I have some street cred 😜: My Ph.D. is in Molecular Pathogenesis and was primarily focused on Microbiology and Immunology. This article is simply my attempt at condensing and presenting the current information on the virus in the simplest terms possible. I think I’ve said it enough times above, but I would HIGHLY recommend keeping an eye on the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) rather than this or any other internet articles for any additional updates. I will update this article as much as possible to keep those interested informed.
Stay safe and keep those hands 🖖 clean 👍!