COVID-19: History, transmission, symptoms, possible treatment and potential prevention


We have pulled together important facts and information about the history, transmission, symptoms, possible treatment and potential prevention in the form of an FAQ.


How did it start?

  • December 31st 2019 - WHO was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The virus did not match any other known virus.

  • January 7th 2020 -Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a new virus. The new virus is a coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).


What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. This new strain of conoravirus has been officially referred to as the novel coronavirus.


Signs and Symptoms of Coronaviruses

Common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives. These illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time. Symptoms may include:


  • Runny nose

  • Headache

  • Cough

  • Sore throat

  • Fever

  • General feeling of being unwell

Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.


Based on what was seen with other coronaviruses, it is believed that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure, even longer.


What type of virus is it?


COVID-19 is a betacoronavirus, like MERS and SARs, all of which have their origins in bats. Chinese authorities have successfully sequenced the genome of the virus allowing for effective detection. The US CDC confirmed the same genome in the first two cases in the US.


Where did it start?


Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by COVID-19 in Wuhan, China had some link to a large seafood and live animal market (also known as "wet markets"),  suggesting that initial spread of the virus was animal-to-person.


Subsequently it has become clear that human-to-human contact is able to spread the virus.

The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is still not fully clear. Reported illnesses have ranged from infected people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying

How is it transmitted?

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

  • The air by coughing and sneezing

  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands

  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

  • Rarely, fecal contamination


When person-to-person spread has occurred with MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of SARS and MERS between people has generally occurred between close contacts.


It’s important to note that how easily a virus spreads person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so.


What is the first cause of action when I have a concern related to COVID-19?

US CDC guidelines state: "If you develop a fever* and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your recent travel or close contact. If you have had close contact** with someone showing these symptoms who has recently traveled from this area, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your close contact and their recent travel."


* Fever may not be present in some patients, such as those who are very young, elderly, immunosuppressed, or taking certain fever-lowering medications. Clinical judgment should be used to guide testing of patients in such situations.


** Close contact is defined as: being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters), or within the room or care area, of a novel coronavirus case for a prolonged period of time while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment ; close contact can include caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health care waiting area or room with a novel coronavirus case.– or – having direct contact with infectious secretions of a novel coronavirus case (e.g., being coughed on) while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment.


What treatment?


According to the US CDC, there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for the novel coronavirus infection. People infected withCOVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions. People who think they may have been exposed to 2the virus should contact your healthcare provider immediately.


How dangerous is the Coronavirus?

Based on data from 44,000 patients with this coronavirus, the WHO says:

  • 81% develop mild symptoms.

  • 14% develop severe symptoms.

  • 5% become critically ill.

The proportion dying from the disease appears low (between 1% and 2%) but the figures are unreliable.


Thousands are still being treated but may go on to die - so the death rate could be higher. But it is also unclear how many mild cases remain unreported - so the death rate could also be lower.


To put this into context, about one billion people catch influenza every year, with between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths.


How to Self-Isolate

If you suspect you have coronavirus, have been in contact with someone who has it, or have been to a place where there are a lot of cases of the virus, then the official advice is to self-isolate. The top five methods to successfully self-isolate include: 1. Stay at home - Do not go to work or school, or other public spaces. Do not have any visitors. 2. Call ahead - If you develop symptoms such as a cough or fever, then seek advice first by phoning your local medical center or hospital. Don't just turn up as this could potentially spread the virus if you have it. 3. Separate yourself - If you live with others then you should stay in a well-ventilated bedroom with the door shut. If you share a bathroom then use it after everyone else. Don't share towels and toiletries. 4. Dispose of waste carefully - Your waste should be double-bagged. 5. Order in food - Order food online or ask your family or friends to help. Ask the person to leave food deliveries on the doorstep.

What are global figures by the end of February 2020?

According to real-time data from Johns Hopkins University as of 8:00am (GMT) February 27th 2020, the latest figures on the novel cornavirus are as follows:


  • 82,171 cases confirmed globally with 78,497 of these cases confirmed in mainland China.

  • 2,804 confirmed deaths, with the first death outside of China reported in the Philippines.

  • 39,985 patients of the virus have been reported as having recovered fully.

  • The virus has now been confirmed in 50 countries and territories outside of China.

  • Of these confirmed cases, World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that over 8,204+ of these cases have been classified as 'severe'.

  • Due to the increased transmission of this virus, the WHO has undertaken risk assessments which have concluded that China is now classified as "Very High" risk, while the threat of the virus has been established as a "High" risk at the regional and global level.


Sources:


  • WHO (World Health Organization). (2020). Coronavirus. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

  • WHO (World Health Organization). (2020). Coronavirus. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

  • WHO (World Health Organization). (2020). Coronavirus. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (2020). SARS | Home | Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome | SARS-CoV Disease | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/sars/index.html [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

  • WHO (World Health Organization). (2020). Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/mers-cov/en/ [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (2020). Coronavirus | About | Symptoms and Diagnosis | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/about/symptoms.html [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (2020). Coronavirus | About | Symptoms and Diagnosis | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/about/symptoms.html [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

  • Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Report - 8. (2020). [ebook] WHO (World Health Organisation). Available at: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200128-sitrep-8-ncov-cleared.pdf?sfvrsn=8b671ce5_2 [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

  • Johns Hopkins University. (2020). 2019-nCoV Global Cases by John Hopkins CSSE. [online] Available at: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6 [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].

  • Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Report - 37. (2020). [ebook] WHO (World Health Organisation). Available at: https://www.https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200226-sitrep-37-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=6126c0a4_4 [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].

  • BBC News. (2020). Coronavirus declared global health emergency. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51318246 [Accessed 3 Feb. 2020].

  • Johns Hopkins University. (2020). 2019-nCoV Global Cases by John Hopkins CSSE. [online] Available at: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6 [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].

  • Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Report - 37. (2020). [ebook] WHO (World Health Organisation). Available at: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200226-sitrep-37-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=6126c0a4_4 [Accessed 27 Feb. 2020].

  • BBC News. (2020). 'Breakthrough' coronavirus copy grown in Australia. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-51289897 [Accessed 29 Jan. 2020].

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