What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

covid 19

There are many types of human coronavirus, including some that commonly cause mild upper respiratory tract illnesses.     

In COVID-19 ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona’, ‘VI’ stands for 
‘virus’, and ‘D’ stands for ‘disease’. Formerly,  this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.   

The outbreak was identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30th 2020.It was later recognized as a pandemic on March 11th 2020.

As of April 21 2020, more than 2.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 185 countries and territories across the world. Worldwide, there have been more than 171,000 deaths.  More than 659,000 people have recovered, although there may be a possibility of relapse or reinfection. The virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.  

Schools, universities, and colleges have closed either on a nationwide or local basis in 197 countries, affecting approximately 99.9% of the world’s student population.  School closures impact not only students, teachers, and families, but have far reaching economic and societal consequences. As of April 18 2020, approximately 1.725 BILLION learners have been affected due to school closures in response to the pandemic.

What are the signs & symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include fever, which is present in 88% of confirmed cases, dry cough in 68% of cases, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Less common symptoms include respiratory sputum production (phlegm), loss of sense of smell, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headache, chills, vomiting, hemoptysis (coughing up blood), and diarrhea. Further development of the disease can lead to potentially fatal complications including pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, septic shock, and kidney failure.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus is primarily spread between people during close contact, often through small droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, or talking. People may also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

An uncovered cough can lead to droplets travelling from 15-37 feet.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates that one person with COVID-19 generally infects two to three others.

Some details about how the disease is spread are still being determined. The virus is most contagious during the first three days after onset of symptoms, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear and in later stages of the disease.

WHO infographic

The usual incubation period (the time between infection and symptom onset) ranges from one to 14 days; it is most commonly five days.

Some of those infected may be asymptomatic, with no clinical symptoms, but test results confirm infection, so researchers have issued advice that those with close contact to confirmed infected people should be closely monitored and examined to rule out infection.

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

Recommended preventive measures include hand washing, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, maintaining distance from other people, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and monitoring and self-isolation for people who suspect they are infected. Those who may already have the infection, have been advised to wear a surgical mask (Check CDC’s website for changes to recommendations regarding face masks, as this has been a subject of much debate). Physical distancing measures are also recommended to prevent transmission. Surfaces should be disinfected regularly.

Many governments are now mandating or recommending social distancing in regions affected by the outbreak. The maximum gathering size recommended by U.S. government bodies and health organizations was reduced from 250 people, to 50 people, and now down to 10 people. (On March 22, Germany banned gatherings of more than two people.) Minimizing close contact between individuals (social distancing) methods include quarantines, travel restrictions, and the closing of schools, workplaces, stadiums, theaters, or shopping centers.

Who is at risk of contracting COVID-19?

Older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, hypertension, and compromised immune systems face increased risk of serious illness and complications and have been advised by the CDC to stay at home as much as possible in areas of community outbreak.

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