There are so many news articles, health research, and clinical studies, as well as infographics that were published about the type of coronavirus that struck China and different parts of the world at the end of 2019 extending to the start of the new decade, 2020. Here is a comprehensive take on what COVID-19 is, what its effect is at present, and the latest health research findings that many organizations are using to fight its spread.
What is coronavirus?
To start the whole discussion about the new coronavirus from China, let us backtrack and know what this virus is. Coronaviruses are viruses that can be the foundation of several respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Did you know that the coronavirus got its name based on its appearance? Researchers and scientists inspect that the virus has spikes that surround the whole cell, resembling and looking like a crown, or ‘corona’.
Most of the public has gotten infected with coronaviruses at one point in their lives; they are, not new in this field. Their symptoms are usually mild to moderate, depending on the type of coronavirus that inflicted harm in your body. In some cases, the virus can cause serious lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
These viruses are common among animals globally, but only some of them are known to have an effect on humans. It is quite rare to have coronaviruses evolve and spread from animals to humans. Two of the few instances that made coronavirus part of the international headlines are with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-Cov). They were sensationalized because both of them were known found out to cause more severe symptoms. Now, we are faced with another coronavirus outbreak, this time with novel coronavirus officially called COVID-19 and the virus that caused COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2.
When and where did the new coronavirus outbreak start?
The exact date and time that the coronavirus started are difficult to track, but different health research findings stated it as a fact that the new strain of coronavirus started in China, specifically in a local seafood and animal market in Wuhan, Hubei province. Huanan Seafood Market sells several animals, dead or alive, for food, and this is where officials and researchers agreed that the virus transferred from animal to animal, and then animal to humans. At first, a debate as to what animal brought the virus to the market ensued. They later deduced that since COVID-19(formerly 2019-nCoV and SARS-CoV-2) genetic sequence is a bit comparable to those in a library of viral sequences, it was concluded that the most closely related viruses were two coronaviruses that originated in bats; both of those coronaviruses shared 88% of their genetic sequence with that of COVID-19.
The problem is, out of all the wide assortment of animals in the Huanan seafood market, no bats were sold there. This is where they come to realize that the coronavirus might be transferred from animal to animal first before if finally reached humans. Some health research analysts pinpoint to snakes, pangolins, civets, and other animals that may have come in contact with bats. But now that the virus has affected humans, person to person transmission becomes a far more important fact to fight against.
How does COVID-19 compare to MERS-COV and SARS-COV?
Like COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS also started in China in 2002. The virus spread to other neighboring countries before 2004 ended. However, compared to SARS, the COVID-19 spreads way faster, affecting more than 80,000 in a span of 3 months, compared to SARS that had a total of at least 8,000 cases in the span of 3 years (2002-2004).
MERS-COV or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, on the other hand, is a type of coronavirus outbreak that started in Saudi Arabia in 2012. What health research officials observe as of the moment is that the Wuhan coronavirus is far less deadly but is faster to spread. To compare, MERS-COV had 34.4% fatality rate, about 1 out of 3 patients die from the infection. With COVID-19, a fatality rate of 2.6% was noted as of Feb 2020.
SARS, MERS-COV, COVID-19 have the same reported signs and symptoms, although their severity depends on the type of viral strain and the immunity and overall health of the patient. These comparisons and health research findings help in understanding how serious this new coronavirus is, but it should not be used to cause panic or misunderstanding against researchers and readers. It should be emphasized that these findings are still on the verge of evolving since countries are still in the early stages of reporting.
How do health research findings help prevent COVID-19 spread?
Several health agencies in China and other countries, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States and the World Health Organization (WHO), are keeping a careful eye on this illness and taking steps to prevent it from spreading. Their health research and findings are being sent and transmitted all over the world so that health officials can come up with strategies and health protocols that can help prevent further spreading and later promote the eradication of the virus itself.
How can you protect yourself from the coronavirus?
There are so many ways to prevent the spread of a viral infection or any disease for that matter. These steps are always effective in order to either protect yourself from getting infected or avoid spreading the infection to others.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. A good tip is to hum ‘Happy Birthday’ twice; that is how long you should rub your hands while washing them.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available. A hand sanitizer or antimicrobial wipes that contain at least 60% alcohol can help kill the viruses that may be lurking on your hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze. Use a tissue or a disposable wipe instead of a handkerchief or reusable cloth, then throw it in the trash.
- As much as possible, avoid touching surfaces that are usually held by people in public. But if this is inevitable, make sure that you avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay away from public places where people go to, especially while a virus outbreak is reported. Remember that viruses can be transmitted in many ways, so isolating yourself against all these is best. On the contrary, for the sake of other people, stay at home when you are sick, with or without coronavirus outbreak. Whatever disease you may have, avoid interacting with other people until you are not contagious anymore.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects people frequently touch. Antimicrobial wipes can help clean surfaces and avoid indirect contact transmission.