Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death
-Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director General, WHO
COVID-19 is an infectious respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for COrona, ‘VI’ stands for VIrus, ‘D’ stands for Disease and ‘19’ refers to the year in which it is discovered i.e. 2019.
Sequence of Events
- On December 31, 2019, China officially reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) about a cluster of cases pertaining to pneumonia due to some unknown cause in Wuhan, Hubei Province.
- On January 30, 2020, the WHO declared the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).This is the sixth time WHO has declared a PHEIC since the International Health Regulations (IHR) came into force in 2005.
- On March 11, 2020, showing deep concerns over the alarming levels of spread and severity along with the alarming levels of inaction, WHO made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.
- On May 23, 2020, around the globe, total confirmed cases were 5,327,085 with 3,42,393 deaths. The USA is sitting on top of the list with 16,22,670 confirmed cases with 97,087 deaths, while in India there are 1,31,920 confirmed cases with 3,869 deaths recorded while I am writing this blog.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a 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 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The most recently found coronavirus named as SARS-CoV-2 is known to cause the illness called COVID-19 which the entire world is fighting right now.
What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
About 80% recover from the disease without availing any hospital treatment, about 1 out of 5 who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and develop difficulty in breathing/shortness of breath, along with fever and/or cough, chest pain, loss of speech or movement.
Most common symptoms:
Fever, dry cough and tiredness
Less common symptoms:
Nasal congestion, body aches, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, rash on skin or discolouration of fingers or toes.
Note: Some people may get infected with this disease yet show no profound symptoms or show mild symptoms, such ‘Asymptomatic’ cases are known to pose a real threat as they could infect huge numbers without even knowing about it.
Spread of the Virus and Its Prevention
COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person through small droplets from nose or mouth, which are released when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or speaks. The released droplets are relatively heavy, could not travel far and quickly fall on the ground or things lying nearby. People can easily catch this disease if they breathe in these droplets coming out from a person infected with the coronavirus. This is why it is safe to stay at least 1 meter away from others.
As released droplets from infected people can land on objects and surfaces such as tables, clothes, doorknobs, handrails etc., people can become infected by touching these objects and surfaces, when they touch their eyes, nose or mouth. This is why it is safe to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or clean them with alcohol based hand-sanitizers.
Who is Vulnerable?
While people of all ages can be affected by COVID-19, the people aged 65 and above are relatively more prone to this disease owing to their weak immunity. As per the recent case studies, patients with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer have a high-fatality rate than others. However, anyone can catch this disease and get seriously ill.
When Should We Take Medical Help?
In case you have symptoms like low fever or mild cough that could be due to seasonal viral infection for which medicines are easily available. Staying at home, monitoring the symptoms and following general medical procedures can be sufficient in such scenarios. In addition to this, there is no need to seek medical care especially pertaining to COVID-19 for such mild symptoms.
However, if you live in a locality with malaria, dengue fever and possible COVID-19 cases or likely to have such infection due to incoming migrants, it is very important that you do not take even mild fever for granted. Seek medical help. But if you face difficulty in breathing or suffer pain/pressure in the chest, seek immediate medical care without any delay. Furthermore, when you attend any health facility, do not forget to wear a face mask, do not touch surfaces with your hands, keep at least 1 meter distance from others. On your return after seeking medical help change all your clothes immediately and take a bath.
Detection of COVID-19
At present two types of testing techniques are being adopted globally by the healthcare systems to check for COVID-19 symptoms in the patients. An RT-PCR test is considered more reliable and is used by most of the countries at the moment. It is a DNA-based test and tells the genetic information of the virus, the RNA. That’s only possible if a virus is present there and the person is actively infected. India is also using this PCR testing technique. The second testing technique is the Rapid Antibody testing, which provides the results relatively faster than PCR technique but at the same time it is less reliable as it involves a simple procedure of taking blood stains. This Antibody technique is also being used by a lot of countries at the moment, South Korea is one such example which manages to contain its COVID-19 crises using this technique.
Treatment of COVID-19
As of now, there are no available medicines which can be used to cure or prevent this disease. No specific antivirals are recommended for the treatment of those suffering this disease. However, depending upon the severity of the condition of a person having coronavirus infection, various healthcare systems around the globe are using different combinations of antiviral drugs on a case to case basis.
Wayout in Handling the COVID-19 Crises
Scientists all over the world are working day-night for the universal cure and potential treatment for this pandemic. Numerous scientific clinical trials are underway around the world to find out the possible cure via different techniques such as:
- Use of different approved drugs with different combinations. As of May18, 2020, three medications had received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA. The anti-malaria drugs Chloroquine & Hydroxychloroquine, and the antiviral drug Remdesivir, a drug used to sedate people on a ventilator.
- Use of Plasma Therapy, in which plasma from a COVID-19 patient who has recovered from the disease, is transfused into the infected person.
- Concept of Herd-Immunity has also started getting a lot of serious attention, because as per this concept, when most of the population gets immune to an infectious disease, it provides indirect protection or herd immunity to those who are not immune to the disease. However, the World Health Organization has condemned the dangerous concept of herd-immunity for managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, the detailed information about this pandemic can be obtained from the following sources which has also been considered while compiling this post:
Be aware and follow all the scientific norms to remain safe and secure. Remember the evergreen saying – prevention is always better than cure. Please share this posts with your friends and loved ones as much as possible.