Coronavirus (COVID-19)EducationForumHealthTechnology

COVID-19: The facts you must know

By Gyanendra Keshri

Novel Coronavirus and the disease caused by it COVID-19 have shocked the consciences of the people across the world. This has resulted in one of the worst crises the world has faced in over a century. There are a lot of rumours and misinformation spreading about this virus and the disease through social media like WhatsApp and Facebook.

While, a few of them could be true, majority lack substance and are not true. Such misinformation often creates confusion, causes anxiety and may lead to an irreparable damage to the individual or the society. Therefore, it is imperative to have correct facts and information. Here I have listed basic facts and information regarding Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 disease in Q&A format to ensure easy understanding among the common reader.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The latest one is called 2019 Novel Coronavirus, officially named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

Novel coronavirus is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold. It was first identified in Wuhan, China. It was initially referred as 2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’ It has been officially named as “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus is named COVID-19. ‘CO’ stands for Corona, ‘VI’ for Virus, and ‘D’ for Disease.

Why different name for the virus and the disease?

Viruses are named based on their genetic structure to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines. Viruses are named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).
Diseases are named to enable discussion on disease prevention, spread, transmissibility, severity and treatment. Diseases are officially named by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
On 11 February 2020, the ICTV officially named 2019 Novel Coronavirus as “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).” This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003.

On the same day, i.e. 11 February 2020, WHO named the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus as COVID-19. Here the ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease, ’19’ for 2019 during the year when the disease first got reported.

Having different name for the virus and the disease caused by it is not uncommon. In fact, they are often named differently. Take the example of HIV and AIDS. The virus is named “Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)”. The disease caused by this virus is called “Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).” Take another example, “measles” is the name of a disease caused by a virus named “rubeola”.

Where did SARS-CoV-2 virus come from?

Novel Coronavirus 2019 (officially named SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in Wuhan, China. There are several theories circulating around regarding the origin of this virus. One theory is that it came from eating bat soup. It says that the virus jumped from bat to humans. But this theory seems wrong as once you boil, the virus is decimated.

A genomes study shows that the virus leapt from bat to an intermediary species before it latched on to humans. Another study indicates that a lineage of SARS-CoV-2 virus was circulating in humans before the disease outbreak.

2019 Novel Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 is of the same lineage of SARS-CoV which caused SARS outbreak in 2003. So it would be important to understand how SARS-CoV emerged. SARS-CoV jumped from an animal reservoir (civet cats, a farmed wild animal) to humans and then spread between humans. In a similar way, it is thought that SARS-CoV-2 jumped the species barrier and initially infected humans, but more likely through an intermediate host, that is another animal species more likely to be handled by humans – this could be a domestic animal, a wild animal, or a domesticated wild animal and, as of yet, has not been identified.

Until the source of this virus is identified and controlled, there is a risk of reintroduction of the virus in the human population and the risk of new outbreaks like the ones we are currently experiencing.
However, at this stage it has not been determined precisely how it emerged. So nothing can be said conclusively at this juncture.

When did COVID-19 disease emerge?

It has not been officially confirmed yet. Preliminary genomic analyses suggest that the first human cases of COVID-19 appeared around mid-October 2019. However, there is no documented case of this viral disease before December 2019.

How does the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread?

Available evidence indicates that SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmitted during close contact through respiratory droplets (such as coughing) and by fomites. The virus can spread directly from person to person when a COVID-19 case coughs or exhales producing droplets that reach the nose, mouth or eyes of another person. Alternatively, as the droplets are too heavy to be airborne, they land on objects and surfaces surrounding the person. Other people become infected with COVID-19 by touching these contaminated objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. According to the currently available evidence, transmission through smaller droplet nuclei (airborne transmission) that propagate through air at distances longer than 1 meter is limited to aerosol generating procedures during clinical care of COVID-19 patients.

How does the virus infect your body?

The virus infects the epithelial cells in the throat and lungs. SARS-CoV-2 binds to the ACE2 receptors on human cells, which are often found mostly in throats and lungs. Virus on your skin, lacking ACE2 expression, will be harmless. The virus enters the body through nasal passage, eyes and mouth. Our hands are the main instruments that take the virus to reach our mouth, nose and eyes.

Who can infect you?

Anyone infected with the virus can infect even before the symptoms appear. Most carriers do not even show signs. The average number of new infections caused by a typical infectious person, that is human transmissibility range (R0) is between 2.2 to 3.1. In simple word, one infected individual on the average infects about 2.2 to 3.1 persons. Some people with the infection, but without any serious symptoms can also spread the disease.

Can novel coronavirus infect animals?

Yes. Besides human, it can infect some animals like monkey, bat, civet, and swine cells. However, it does not infect domestic animals or livestock.

Can SARS-CoV-2 virus spread through air?

Not much. The virus is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air. They quickly fall on floors or surfaces. The spread of the virus through air won’t be more than 1 meter. You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within 1 metre of a person who has COVID-19, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.

Can one get infected with SARS-CoV-2 twice?

As this is a new disease, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest whether one can get infected with this virus twice or not. However, experience of other viral diseases show that the chances of getting infected twice is low. For example, once we get measles, most of us acquire life long immunity. We hardly get measles again.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, tiredness, dry cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties. Common symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Dry Cough
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Some patients also have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea

These symptoms are similar to the flu (influenza) or the common cold, which are a lot more common than COVID-19. This is why testing is required to confirm if someone has COVID-19. The incubation period of COVID-19 (time between getting the infection and showing symptoms) is 1 to 14 days.

How severe is COVID-19?

The majority of COVID-19 cases are mild (81%), About 15% need hospitalisation and 5% require critical care. That is the vast majority of the infected will not even need hospitalisation.

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

What causes the death in COVID-19 patients?

Most of the deaths is caused by respiratory failure or respiratory failure combined with heart damage. Leakage of fluid into the lungs, which inhibits respiration and leads to morbidity, is the primary clinical condition. At present, the treatment for COVID-19 is primarily supportive care, including ventilation if necessary. Several therapeutic trials are ongoing, and the results are awaited.

What age group is most vulnerable to COVID-19?

This virus can infect any age group. However, this turns fatal mostly in the older people, particular above 60 years of age and people with prior cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory conditions have a higher risk.

What is the infection period?

Length of time an individual can transmit the infection to others is not known precisely. However, it is estimated to be up to 10-14 days. Artificially reducing the contagious period is a crucial method of reducing overall transmission. Hospitalisation, isolation, lockdown and quarantine are all effective methods.

WHO has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. What does it mean?

The World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 outbreak as pandemic on 11th March 2020. Before that day it was in the category of epidemic, which meant that the disease had spread to many people, and many communities, at the same time. By labelling the spread a pandemic, WHO has declared that it is now a worldwide phenomenon.

How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19?

The world is struggling to find the answer to this question. So far there is no vaccine or other protective devices being developed to shield you from this disease. However, you can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:

Clean your hands:
How? Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain Distance:
How? Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Respiratory Hygiene
How? 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.

Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

Stay Home
How? 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.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Keep Updated
How? Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places  – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.
Why? You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19 in one of these areas.

Should I wear a medical mask?

The use of a medical mask is advised if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) to protect others. If you don’t have any symptoms, then there is no need to wear a mask. If masks are worn, they must be used and disposed of properly to ensure their effectiveness and to avoid any increased risk of transmitting the virus. The use of a mask alone is not enough to stop infections and must be combined with frequent hand washing, covering sneezes and coughs, and avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, fever).

NOTE: The information and facts about Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic have been changing rapidly. It has a direct impact on our lives. Therefore, it is imperative that we don’t fall prey to rumours and half-true information. Maintain physical distancing, good hand and respiratory hygiene. Stay informed with BiharConnect and be safe!

(Gyanendra Keshri is Founder and Chief Executive, BiharConnect)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BiharConnect and BiharConnect does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Gyanendra Kumar Keshri

Gyanendra Kumar Keshri is consulting editor of BiharConnect. He has nearly 20 years of experience in journalism, having worked for diverse media streams in India and abroad.

Related Articles

One Comment

  1. This is a very informative and useful article. It help clear several doubts that i had. I have one question does it spread through air?

Back to top button