Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Novel COVID-19 Pandemic



Corona viruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tracts of birds and mammals, including humans. Doctors associate them with the common cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and COVID-19. They can also affect the gut. Over the last 70 years scientists discovered that these corona viruses can affect mice, rats, dogs, cats, turkeys, horses, pigs, and cattle. It has also been discovered that these animals can transmit corona viruses to humans. 

Corona viruses are frequent causes of the common cold, causing upper respiratory tract infection(s) (URITs) throughout the world, in all age groups, leading to millions of days of work and school absence, physician visits, and frequent inappropriate antibiotic use. So let’s all try to understand one thing; the common cold we experience in our daily activities is traced to this same corona virus but the underlying question faced to the world now is why this lead to a global pandemic.

Researchers first isolated a corona virus in 1937. They found a corona virus responsible for an infectious bronchitis virus in birds that had the ability to devastate poultry stocks. Scientists first found evidence of human corona viruses (HCoV) in the 1960s in the noses of people with the common cold. Two human corona viruses are responsible for a large proportion of common colds: OC43 and 229E.

The name “corona virus” comes from the crown-like projections on their surfaces. “Corona” in Latin means “halo” or “crown.” Among humans, corona virus infections most often occur during the winter months and early spring. People regularly become ill with a cold due to a corona virus and may catch the same one about 4 months later. This is because coronavirus antibodies do not last for a long time. Also, the antibodies for one strain of corona virus may be ineffective against another one. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), corona viruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). 

How the corona virus differs from the flu and common cold

The common cold is caused by a different strain of virus to the COVID-19. Most corona viruses, such as the common cold, cause mild infection in the upper respiratory tract and produce relatively minor symptoms such as a stuffy nose, sore head and sore throat.

People who contract COVID-19 suffer from respiratory systems that can cause coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and fever. The infection can also cause pneumonia, kidney failure and in the most serious cases, death. Meanwhile, flu is caused by a number of different influenza viruses. Flu is very infectious and easily spreads to other people and is likely to be passed on to another person with the first five days of infection.

Flu symptoms can be slightly more serious than those associated with the common cold, with some people experiencing a loss of appetite, diarrhea or tummy pain, feeling sick and being sick. In the most serious cases, flu can also cause pneumonia. In most people, common cold symptoms usually peak within the first two to three days of infection, while the effects of COVID-19 appear two to 14 days after exposure.

General symptoms of corona viruses
Cold- or flu-like symptoms usually set in from 2–4 days after a corona virus infection and are typically mild. However, symptoms vary from person-to-person, and some forms of the virus can be fatal.

Symptoms may include:
  • sneezing 
  • runny nose 
  • fatigue 
  • cough 
  • fever 
  • sore throat 
  • exacerbated asthma which can be related to difficulty in breathing.
Scientists cannot easily cultivate human corona viruses in the laboratory unlike the rhinovirus, which is another cause of the common cold. This makes it difficult to gauge the impact of the coronavirus on national economies and public health.

There is no cure for corona viruses that cause symptoms resembling the common cold. Treatments include self-care and over-the-counter (OTC) medication. People can take several steps, including:
  • resting and avoiding overexertion 
  • drinking enough water 
  • avoiding smoking and smoky areas 
  • taking acetaminophen for pain and fever 
  • using a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer

A doctor can diagnose the virus responsible by taking a sample of respiratory fluids, such as mucus from the nose, or blood.

Types of Corona viruses

Corona viruses belong to the subfamily Corona virinae in the family Corona viridae. Different types of human corona viruses vary in how severe the resulting disease becomes, and how far they can spread.Doctors currently recognize seven types of corona virus that can infect humans.

Common types include: 
  • 229E (alpha corona virus) 
  • NL63 (alpha corona virus) 
  • OC43 (beta corona virus) 
  • HKU1 (beta corona virus)
Rarer strains that cause more severe complications include MERS-CoV, which causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and SARS-CoV, the virus responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). In 2019, a new strain called SARS-CoV-2 started circulating, causing the disease COVID-19.

Transmission

Limited research is available on how HCoV spreads from one person to the next.

However, researchers believe that the viruses transmit via fluids in the respiratory system, such as mucus.

Corona viruses can spread in the following ways: 
  • Coughing and sneezing without covering the mouth can disperse droplets into the air. 
  • Touching or shaking hands with a person who has the virus can pass the virus between individuals. 
  • Making contact with a surface or object that has the virus and then touching the nose, eyes, or mouth. 
  • Some animal corona viruses, such as feline corona virus (FCoV), may spread through contact with feces. However, it is unclear whether this also applies to human corona viruses.
Corona viruses will infect most people at some time during their lifetime so there’s no need to panic. Corona viruses can mutate effectively, which makes them so contagious. To prevent transmission, people should stay at home and rest while symptoms are active. They should also avoid close contact with other people. Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief while coughing or sneezing can also help prevent transmission. It is important to dispose of any tissues after use and maintain hygiene around the home.

Basic protective measures against COVID-19

  1. Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with alcohol based sanitizers or soap and water for a minimum of 2 minutes
  2. Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  4. Practice respiratory hygiene: Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  5. If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing seek medical attention immediately: Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority
Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading
  • Follow the guidance outlined above. 
  • Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses. 
  • If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers. Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

Article Written By: Sodunke Oyindamola Emma

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