The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to impact the world. Here’s our latest update on COVID-19. The information gathered below is from reliable sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United Nations (UN).
Basic Information on COVID-19
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 or the coronavirus disease is a highly contagious disease caused by a new strain of a coronavirus.
Why is it called COVID-19?
The coronavirus disease is abbreviated as COVID-19. “CO” is for corona, “VI” for the virus, “D” for disease with “19” for the year it was discovered. It was named by the World Health Organization. The disease was formerly known as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.
What is the name of the virus of COVID-19?
According to WHO, the official name of the disease is “coronavirus disease” or COVID-19 while the virus is called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2.
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that may cause diseases in people and even animals. There are human coronaviruses including some that regularly cause mild to severe respiratory tract diseases like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The latest coronavirus strain is the SARS-COV-2 that causes COVID-19.
What is a novel coronavirus?
A novel coronavirus refers to a new strain of coronavirus that has not been identified before in humans. According to the CDC, SARS-COV-2 is different from the common coronaviruses that circulate among humans and causes milder illness such as a common cold. People with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently compared to patients that are diagnosed with the common coronaviruses.
Where did it originate?
The WHO office received a report of an increasing number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China last December 31, 2019. Wuhan tried to contain the virus but it already started to spread to neighboring countries, and to the rest of the world. On March 12, 2020, the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic.
Signs, Symptoms, and Transmission
What is the source of the virus?
SARS-COV-2, like all other coronaviruses, are from animals. SARS-CoV is from civet cats while the MERS-CoV is from dromedary camels. However, the intermediate host or the specific source of the virus remains uncertain.
To ensure your safety: maintain distance from direct contact with non-domestic animals and surfaces in contact with animals; observe food safety measures and avoid eating raw or undercooked meals, although there has been no known transmission through food.
What is the incubation period of COVID-19?
The incubation period refers to the time between the exposure to a virus and when the symptoms appear. The WHO states that the incubation period of COVID-19 is from 1-12.5 days. However, the incubation period may reach up to 14 days like MERS and SARS. Therefore the monitoring of contacts of confirmed cases is recommended.
How does COVID-19 spread?
It is mainly transmitted through person to person via respiratory droplets as they sneeze, cough, shout, or even speak. These droplets are relatively heavy, do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground. People can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in these droplets from a person infected with the virus. It can be transmitted by symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and even asymptomatic individuals.
This is why it is important to keep at least 6 feet away from others. There is the possibility of infection through an asymptomatic individual. Respiratory droplets can also land on objects and surfaces around the person such as tables, doorknobs, and handrails. Theoretically, people can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their face, although this is a minor method for transmission. The virus easily enters the body through the mucus membranes found in the eyes, nose, and mouth. This is why it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based antiseptic gel.
How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
Research reveals that the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours on some surfaces. A study demonstrated that it stays up to 3 hours on aerosol, 4 hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, and 2-3 days on plastic and steel.
What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, difficulty in breathing, muscle aches, and loss of taste or smell. According to the UN and WHO, some patients have nasal congestion, sore throat, diarrhea, or rash. There are asymptomatic cases where patients don’t show any signs or feel sick at all.
Only 1 out of 6 cases become critically ill. And 80% of COVID-19 cases recover from the disease without needing any special treatment. According to the UN, older people, and those with underlying medical problems are more likely to develop into a critical case. People with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
Can COVID-19 be caught from someone who is not ill?
Yes, there are cases of asymptomatic transmission. However, it is still not yet known how often it happens.
How fatal can COVID-19 be?
COVID-19 can be fatal especially to people with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes and heart problems. According to research, the fatality rate of COVID-19 is still hard to determine with the available data.
Is there a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19?
Unfortunately, not yet. However, scientists from all over the world are working double-time to produce a cure or a vaccine to flatten the curve. Possible vaccines and medicinal drugs are already in clinical trials. There is also no specific treatment for people with COVID-19. Nevertheless, supportive care is highly effective.
How to protect yourself?
What can I do to stop the spread of COVID-19?
You can do your part in flattening the curve and ending COVID-19 by:
- Staying at home
- Observe social distancing
- Washing your hands frequently
- Wearing a face mask when going out
- Doing proper coughing or sneezing etiquette
- Getting yourself checked through telemedicine/telehealth options if you don’t feel well
- If you suspect yourself or your family member, it is best to inform your local health providers to get tested as soon as possible
- Avoid touching your face
- Avoid physical greetings such as kissing, hugging or shaking of the hands
- Avoid public places
What is the most effective protection against COVID-19?
- Staying at home
- Clean and disinfect
When should I use masks?
According to WHO, people who have a cough or cold should wear face masks. However, there is the presence of asymptomatic transmission. Just make sure to wear a mask whenever you go out as an extra unit of protection for yourself and others.
What is the proper way of wearing a mask?
According to WHO, this is how you should wear and dispose of your mask.
- Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
- To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of the mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Knowledge is an antidote to fear. We hope that this may help you to cope and guide you during these dark times. Take care and stay safe!
Dr. Amy Schiffman is an allergy and immunology specialist in Boca Raton, Florida. She is more than happy to help you during this troubling time. Call for an appointment to discuss prior or current COVID-19 diagnosis, and to address all your allergy and immunology concerns.