What is the Covid-19 Coronavirus?

Covid-19 (coronavirus) is a highly contagious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The virus that causes the disease is called the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2).

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The first cases of Covid-19 were discovered in Wuhan, China, in as early as December 2019. It is suspected to have been transmitted from bats then to an intermediate host (another animal) and then to humans. This form of disease transmission is known as a zoonotic spillover.

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The effects of Covid-19 range from very mild to extremely severe, based on a person’s age and whether they already have other  health problems. Persons who are most at risk include the elderly and anyone who has serious health problems such as heart or lung conditions, weakened immune systems, severe obesity, or diabetes.

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A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

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COVID‐19 can affect the upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) and the lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs).

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Symptoms

The symptoms of the coronavirus are as follows:

  • Most common- fever, dry cough, tiredness
  • Less common-aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes
  • Serious symptoms-  difficulty breathing, loss of speech or movement, chest pain or pressure

 

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The incubation period is the time span between exposure to a disease and when a person starts experiencing symptoms. For the coronavirus, the incubation period can range from 5 to 6 days or for as long as 14 days. This is why the recommended quarantine period is 14 days or more, if you have had contact or may have had contact with a confirmed case.

Coronavirus incubation period

How to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19

  • Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Wear personal protective gear such as cotton face masks and gloves when going out into public places and dispose of reusable face masks after 4 hours of wear
  • Maintain a distance of 1 metre (3 feet) or more from other people, in order to prevent the spread of the virus through droplets when someone sneezes, coughs etc
  • Stay away from crowded places. This makes it harder for the virus to transmit from one person to the next, since it needs a host in order to survive
  • Do not touch your face unless you have just properly washed your hands. Since your hands are constantly in contact with other surfaces, it is easy for the virus to be transmitted from those surfaces to you, when you touch your eyes, mouth or nose.
  • Stay at home and self-isolate if you experience any symptoms of Covid-19. Even if you have very mild symptoms, you need to protect others from catching the disease by isolating yourself. Since the effects of Covid-19 can be extremely severe for the elderly and those with pre-existing health problems, it is important for us to protect them by staying away until we are symptom free.

 

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The World Health Organization has advised that all confirmed cases of Covid-19, whether mild or more severe, should be isolated and treated in health care facilities. However, since many health care systems have reached their capacity in dealing with cases of the coronavirus, it has been recommended that health care facilities prioritize the treatment of the most at risk individuals.

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According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended to only release isolated patients once these two conditions are met:

  1. The patient has stopped having symptoms of Covid-19 for 3 consecutive days or more
  2. The patient has been in isolation for 13 days or more since the onset of symptoms.

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Transmission of Covid-19

  • According to the World Health Organization, the main ways in which the novel coronavirus is spread is through contact and respiratory droplets. It has been also observed to become airborne in poorly ventilated and crowded spaces.

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Even though the coronavirus has not been seen to be transmitted through breast milk or breastfeeding, it is still important for a breastfeeding mother to practice proper hygiene when breastfeeding her child, especially if she has symptoms or has been confirmed to have the coronavirus.

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Yes. Even though an asymptomatic patient may not transmit the virus as easily as someone with symptoms- coughing or sneezing etc, they still are capable of passing on the virus to others. Also, it is harder to determine to what extent the asymptomatic patient may pass on the virus. 

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Yes. As we have all probably seen by now, hotter climatic conditions do not deter the spread of the virus. Therefore, no matter where you are in the world, as long as the coronavirus is present in your area, you need to adapt measures of preventing the spread of the virus.

 

Currently, it is very unlikely for someone to contract the coronavirus through food consumption or food packaging. However, it is still very important to practice food safety measures when preparing, storing and handling food.

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Treatment/Vaccines/Immunity

Currently, there are no medicines that have been proven to cure Covid-19. The good news however, is that there are several vaccines that are currently being developed and clinical trials are also ongoing.

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Since there is no cure currently available, treatment is only really available for the symptoms of the virus and not the virus itself. In very extreme cases, however, there are some medications that are allowed to be administered to patients.

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According to WHO, “COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.”

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At this time, there is no evidence to support the idea that people who have recovered from the virus and developed antibodies are now immune. There have also been several cases of reinfection.

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