The world was alarmed when news about a novel virus outbreak was reported. A novel virus is a new strain of the virus that is unknown or has not yet been identified in humans. On December 31, 2019, there were multiple reports of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. After careful investigations, it was found that the cause of this infectious disease was an unknown virus named the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infects a variety of animal species such as camels, cats, cattle, and bats. Rarely, these viruses mutate and can spread from its animal reservoir to the human population thus these viruses are sometimes zoonotic in nature. As of February 26, 2020, there are 81,109 confirmed cases of COVID-19 all around the globe. 78 191 of those are from China alone. There are already 2762 reported deaths and most of them are the elderly that have weak immune systems.
The reported cases of the disease have shown mild to severe symptoms. The disease usually begins gradually and goes up to mild symptoms. The common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, and dyspnea though some of the infected may show body pain, nasal congestion, pharyngitis, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, although rare, patients developed pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and sometimes death. Some were infected and yet developed asymptomatic conditions or conditions where they have the disease but did not develop any of the symptoms. Most of the individuals that acquired the disease recover from the disease without the need for special treatment. Although there are still a lot of unknown factors about the coronavirus, so far older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions are more at risk of developing severe illness.
On February 11, 2020, the WHO announced that the official name of the disease is “COVID-19” and the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses declared “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” (SARS-CoV-2) as the new virus’ name. Although the virus that causes the COVID-19 has SARS in its name, it is different from the SARS that had an outburst last 2003. The two are related genetically but SARS is more deadly and less infectious. SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and also the MERS-CoV are all beta coronaviruses.
The MERS-CoV is known to be transmitted from camels while the SARS-CoV is from civet cats. It is deduced that the transmission of the virus likely occurred in the open food market in Wuhan, China. The animal reservoir of the SARS-CoV-2 is not yet known but the virus is now spreading from person to person through a type of transmission called the droplet spread. People can get infected if they were to breathe in or ingest the droplets from an infected person who coughs out or exhales the small droplets. The latest studies confirmed that the virus is present in the feces of the infected but the risk of catching the disease appears to be low.
The COVID-19 has an estimated incubation period of 1-2 weeks. The incubation period is the set time between catching the virus and the onset of the symptoms in a person. It is not known as to how long the SARS-CoV-2 can survive on the surface. Studies suggest that the virus may survive on the surface for a few hours up to several days depending on the condition. It is recommended to disinfect any surface that will be likely in contact with the virus. People who suffer from the symptoms are encouraged to go consult the medical professionals before your condition worsens.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent or treat the COVID-19 but preventive actions were enforced to minimize the spread of the disease. The WHO recommends the following action to protect everyone and prevent the spread of disease:
- Sanitize your hands with hand sanitizer, alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water regularly.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth since your hands can easily pick up viruses.
- Maintain a distance of 1 meter from those who are coughing or sneezing.
- Everyone is advised to stay as far away as possible to the places where an infected person is found.
- Seek medical attention if you have the symptoms of the disease.