What Do We Know About the Coronavirus?
A new coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office on December 31, 2019. A pneumonia of unknown cause was detected in Wuhan, China according to was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China.
The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020.
On February 11, the World Health Organization named the disease caused by the new coronavirus: COVID-19. Both the virus and the disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan. The overwhelming majority of cases were initially concentrated in China, however the disease has now spread worldwide. On March 11, the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
What is Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as an infectious disease caused by the newly discovered coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, most of which are harmless for humans. Four types are known to cause colds, and two other types can cause severe lung infections: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The novel coronavirus is now known as SARS-CoV-2, because of its similarities to the virus that causes SARS. This new coronavirus seems to target cells in the lungs, and possibly other cells in the respiratory system too. Cells infected by the virus will produce more virus particles, which can then spread to other people, for instance by coughing.
Why do the virus and the disease have different names?
Viruses, and the diseases they cause, often have different names. For example, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. People often know the name of a disease, but not the name of the virus that causes it.
There are different processes, and purposes, for naming viruses and diseases. Viruses are named based on their genetic structure to facilitate the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines. Virologists and the wider scientific community do this work, so 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. Human disease preparedness and response is WHO’s role, so diseases are officially named by WHO in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). ICTV announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new virus on 11 February 2020. This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.
WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on 11 February 2020, following guidelines previously developed with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
How is coronavirus transmitted?
The virus can spread from person to person, including by people who appear to have no symptoms. This makes it much harder to get a good picture of the way it’s spreading.
The WHO notes that coronavirus can be transmitted primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose or mouth which are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People can catch COVID-19 by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus, and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. People can also be infected if they breathe in droplets from a person with coronavirus who coughs out or exhales droplets. The WHO recommends social distancing- staying more than three feet away from a person who is sick.
How dangerous is coronavirus?
The latest estimates are that 80 percent of the people who get infected with the new coronavirus will experience a mild or moderate form of disease. Roughly 15 percent will develop a severe form of the disease requiring hospitalization. Some 5 percent will become critically ill. The high level of supportive and intensive care required to treat patients with COVID-19 places real challenges to even the most advanced health care systems.
COVID-19 is more dangerous for elderly people or people suffering from other infections or ailments. Children so far seem to be less affected by the disease. The mortality rates vary significantly from place to place.Public health measures such as isolation, quarantine, and social distancing are generally put in place to limit community transmission, reduce the number of new cases and severely ill patients, protect the most vulnerable people, and manage health resources.
How can you prevent yourself from being infected?
It is extremely important to protect yourself and others too. As with other coronaviruses, droplet infection seems to be the main mode of transmission. The virus enters the human body through the mouth or nose. This can happen by breathing in infected droplets, or by touching with your hands a surface on which droplets have landed, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth later.
Going back to the basics – infection control measures such as good handwashing for 20 seconds and proper coughing and sneeze etiquette are highly effective and important for prevention.
Hand hygiene is essential, therefore, CDC recommends that you wash your hands often with soap and water. Make sure to use enough soap, and ensure that all parts of both your hands are washed. Spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands. If there is no visible dirt on your hands, an alcohol-based gel is also a good option.
CDC recommends that you stay home when you are sick, and avoid contact with other people. If you are coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or with the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues into a wastebasket immediately and wash your hands.
Social distancing is advised in places with community transmission of the virus. Avoid crowded places and large gatherings, and generally keep some physical distance between you and other people.
Is there a cure for COVID-19?
At this time, there are no specific vaccine or treatments for COVID-19. WHO postulates that there are ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments.
Given the current situation with the supply of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE), the needs of health care personnel are critical. Therefore GIF will continue to advocate for adequate and essential PPEs for healthcare workers at the frontline and educate the public by sharing relevant information on the COVID-19 outbreak.