What is Coronavirus and What Should I Do if I Have Symptoms?
CoronaVirus, or COVID19, to give it its newly-coined official name, burst into the international spotlight last December 2019 when the first cases were reported in Wuhan City in China. The earliest cases appear to have been traced to the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city. Whether the initial infection was from a worker or a customer is open to conjecture, and is by now irrelevant anyway.
Unfortunately, the disease had managed to spread considerably before China’s Health Authorities even knew of its existence.
Where Do Coronaviruses Come From, and How Do Humans Contract Them?
Coronaviruses are a family of organisms that are classified as zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. There are many known zoonotic viruses, and a number have previously made the jump from various animal species to humans. (AIDS was originally a zoonotic virus, though not a coronavirus)
Investigations have established that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.
In many cultures, people live and work in close contact with various animals. An infectious viral disease like a coronavirus is easily transmitted cross-species, especially if good hygiene isn’t observed.
The symptoms can range from a mild cold-like illness to pneumonia. Some people will recover easily, and others may get very sick very quickly. People infected with a coronavirus can experience fever, flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue, shortness of breath, or any combination of these.
Severe cases can result in organ failure. Since this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. Antiviral drugs that have been developed to combat ‘flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the individual’s immune system. Many of those people who have died were already in poor health.
How Is Coronavirus Transmitted?
Covid19 appears to be more easily transmitted than other coronaviruses, especially MERS, though thankfully the mortality rate seems to be lower. MERS seems to be rarely transmitted human-to-human, which is fortunate since the mortality rate can be as high as 34%. By comparison, Covid19’s mortality rate is reported to be around 2%, compared with around 1% for seasonal influenza and 10% for SARS.
Viral diseases like this are transmitted via infected droplets from a carrier (they don’t have to be showing symptoms). The virus is most likely spread through close contact with an infectious person, contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze, or touching objects or surfaces (like doorknobs, tables – even money) that have cough or sneeze droplets on them. The virus is then transferred by touching your mouth, eyes, or face.
Why is This Worse Than Normal Influenza, and How Worried are the Experts?
Although the mortality rate is lower than with other coronavirus outbreaks, the big concern is the lack of any form of vaccine. Covid19 appears to affect the elderly and those with any underlying health concerns especially. Victims fortunate enough to be in fairly good health appear to be able to recover more readily.
The other major concern for authorities is the seemingly high transmission rate. Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed and seems to be quite high.
What Precautions Can We Take Against Covid19?
The best and most effective precautions we can take are to maintain good personal hygiene. Such things as washing hands regularly, thoroughly cooking any meat or egg products, and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of a cough or cold.
Always cover your mouth and nose if you do happen to cough or sneeze. (This should be normal practice anyway) Cough into your sleeve, near the elbow, rather than into a hand. When using public toilets, I use a piece of paper to open the door (after washing my hands) and toss it into a nearby bin. Call me paranoid if you like; it’s something I’ve always done.
Should We Wear a Surgical Mask?
Unless you’re carrying Covid19 or any other respiratory infection, authorities don’t recommend wearing a mask. Surgical masks are only considered effective in preventing transmission from an infected person. If you choose to wear one for your own peace-of-mind, I’m sure no-one’s going to hold it against you. There’s an interesting aside to this, however: If you’re wearing a mask you’re likely to need to adjust it regularly – and will probably put your fingers in or close to your mouth and eyes in the process. Remember what I said earlier about the easiest way to become infected? There’s an article here about face-mask wearing.
What If I Have Symptoms of Coronavirus?
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned earlier in this article, you should seek medical advice straight away. Book ahead, and tell your doctor’s receptionist about your concerns. Wear a face mask (if you have one) and try to avoid coughing or sneezing as much as you can.
I know, I’m stating the bleeding obvious, but you asked the question. (Oh, hang on, I asked that, didn’t I?)
Are Asian People More Likely to Carry Coronavirus?
Now that’s a really stupid question, but one that had to be covered.
Of course not! Covid19 may have had its origins in China, but that’s all. Near the end of World War 1, we had a pandemic of Spanish Flu. It certainly wasn’t carried by Spaniards, nor did it affect Spaniards any more than anyone else. Viruses are truly non-racially biased. I only mentioned this in response to a few cases of racial vilification against Asian people regarding Covid19.
Is This Covid19 Outbreak a Pandemic?
No, it’s not. Not yet, anyway. A pandemic is a worldwide outbreak of a disease. An epidemic is an outbreak within one country or region. So far (Feb 2020) Covid19 is spreading, but not yet near Pandemic status.
Do you have anything you’d like to add to the discussion?
Do you have any personal experience with Covid19, or any other Coronavirus?
Feel free to join the conversation via the Comments Box below.
Although HomeSafetySite is not intended to be a medical information site, I just felt compelled to write this article. I’m not, nor do I claim to be, an authority on medical issues. I just do good research.