Everything You Need To Know About The Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus and SARs (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus). While the coronavirus is not a new virus, a new strain of the virus is one that had not been previously identified in humans.  The new variation of coronavirus is referred to as COVID-19 and has caused quite a stir due to its rapid spread. Symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear 2-14 days after exposure and consist of the following:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties

In severe cases the infection can cause the following:

  • Pneumonia
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome
  • Kidney failure
  • Death

 

As of now, China and Italy have gone into a travel lockdown after the number of reported cases skyrocketed. In the United States, a shocking 975 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed, along with 30 deaths and 15 recoveries.  However, only 8 of the 930 current infected patients have severe cases of the virus.

 

Why is this more dangerous than normal influenza? Should I be worried?

Since COVID-19 is such a new virus, there isn’t much that scientists know about how dangerous it is. Until new data comes in, not much will be known about the virus. For comparison, the average seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% with about 400,000 deaths a year. As of March 3, 2020, the World Health Organization has estimated that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is around 3.4%. This leaves a difference of 2.4% between the two.

Another key factor is that unlike influenza, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, making it difficult for vulnerable members of the population to protect themselves. This also makes it incredibly difficult to study how contagious the virus is. However, as long as one tries to protect themselves by washing their hands, avoiding contact with others who may be sick, and keeping their living space clean and disinfected, their likelihood of contracting the virus is far less likely.

 

Who is at risk?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following people are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19:

  • Older adults and senior citizens (older than 60)
  • People with serious chronic medical conditions such as:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease

Their studies looked at 45,000 confirmed cases in China and found that fewer than 1.0% of healthy people who contracted the COVID-19 virus died from the disease. The percentage went up to around 6.0% for people with cancer, hypertension or chronic respiratory disease, 7.3% for those with diabetes and 10.5% for those with cardiovascular disease. Patients who were 80 or older were also at increased risk, with 14.8% dying.

 

What are some common misconceptions?

the coronavirus can be spread by pets

It’s very unlikely that your pet can spread this virus to a human. One dog in China was confirmed to have caught a low-level infection from its owner who had a confirmed case of COVID-19, however, no evidence suggests the animal can infect humans. Animal health expert, Vanessa Barrs, of City University told the Post that “there was no evidence of viral transmission from pet dogs or cats to humans.”. Regardless, the CDC does recommend that people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 get someone else to care for their pets while they’re sick.

 

getting the coronavirus is a death sentence

This statement is certainly not true. With 81% of cases being mild and a mortality rate of 3.4%, a great majority of all people diagnosed with COVID-19 will survive. For older people or others with underlying health conditions who are at risk, the mortality rate of the disease may increase.

 

the coronavirus is less deadly than the flu

So far, scientists believe that the coronavirus may be more deadly than the flu. However, there is still a lot of uncertainties regarding the mortality rate of the virus since there is still much that isn’t known. So far, there’s a 0.05% mortality rate among those who caught the influenza virus in the U.S. this year, according to the CDC. In comparison, recent data suggests that COVID-19 has a mortality rate of around 3.4%. The death rate varied by different factors such as location and the individual’s age

 

you can get the coronavirus if you eat Chinese food in the U.S.

No, you cannot get the coronavirus by eating Chinese food in the U.S. This argument has sadly been used by many to justify racist or xenophobic attitudes towards people of Asian descent. When looking at the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites on coronavirus, “eating Chinese food” is not listed as a risk for contracting COVID-19.

 

the virus only kills the elderly

While the virus is mostly affecting the elderly, there have been younger people who died because of their exposure to the virus. People in certain work fields like public health officials are also at an elevated risk of contracting the virus, regardless of age. It’s important for people of all ages to continue doing whatever possible to protect themselves from the virus.

 

How do I protect myself?

The following are ways to protect oneself from COVID-19:

  • clean hands frequently
  • avoid touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with someone who may be sick
  • clean and disinfect your home
  • wear a facemask
  • stay home if you are sick

 

What do I do if I think I have come in contact with the virus?

If you think you may have somehow come in contact with the virus, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOME. By going into spaces with other people you are putting them at risk of contracting it. Instead, call your doctor or local public health department. They should then ask you questions to determine if you may have COVID-19. If it is determined that you possibly have COVID-19, they will likely arrange for your pickup to transport you to a facility that’s equipped with negative air-pressure rooms.

 

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/expert-answers/novel-coronavirus/faq-20478727

https://www.cancerhealth.com/article/who-is-most-susceptible-new-coronavirus

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/10/can-face-mask-stop-coronavirus-covid-19-facts-checked