Coronavirus Disease 2019 or Covid-19 is a new virus that started from an exotic food market in Wuhan, China. Chinese authorities reported the first cases of the virus in December 2019. Due to the unprecedented speed of transmission of the virus, Covid-19 is now present in almost all countries. Last March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization characterized Covid-19 as a pandemic.

What’s the cause of Covid-19?

Covid-19 is caused by a virus, specifically the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This new strain of coronavirus is new and has not been identified previously in humans.

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are zoonotic in nature --- meaning, they first develop in animals and then transferred to humans through close contact. There are hundreds of coronaviruses that can cause fever and respiratory problems but most of them are mild. The first coronavirus from humans was isolated in the 1960s.

Coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2 are made up of one strip of RNA. This genetic material is surrounded by a membrane full of spiked proteins. If viewed in the microscope, these rings look like a crown at the top of the virus, hence the name “corona” --- the Latin word for crown.

When coronaviruses enter the body, the spiked proteins attach to your cells. The virus then injects its RNA into your cell’s nucleus, “hijacking” it to create multiple copies of itself. An infection then ensues.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

Because Covid-19 is new, experts are still learning. Here’s what we know so far about the symptoms of Covid-19.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Low-grade fever that increases over time
  • Dry, hacking cough that gets worse with time

Some people can carry the virus for 2 to 14 days before symptoms appear. There are who are asymptomatic too --- meaning, they don’t experience any symptoms.

If you experience the following, seek medical help immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Confusion
  • Bluish tint on lips or face
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Excessive drowsiness

We are learning something new about Covid-19 every day. We’ll post more information about its symptoms when they become available.

What are the similarities and differences between Covid-19, flu, and the common cold?

Check out the table below:

Symptoms

Covid-19

Flu

Cold

Fever Often Often Mild, If any

Difficulty breathing

Common if the infection is severe.

Common if the infection is severe.

No

Shortness of breath

Common in mild infection

Rare No

Fatigue

Occasional

Infrequent

Occasional, Mild

Cough

Severe dry cough

Dry cough

No

Sneezing

Infrequent

Infrequent

Common

Water eyes

Infrequent

Common Common

Body aches

Occasional Common Common

Diarrhoea

Infrequent Occasional No

Headache

Occasional Common

Infrequent

Stuffy or runny nose

Infrequent

Occasional Common

Headache

Occasional Common Rare

How Covid-19 is transmitted?

Covid-19 can be transmitted through respiratory droplets when someone sneezes or coughs. Aside from direct contact, you can also get the virus indirectly from infected surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Studies show that the virus can stay alive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

Who is more at risk with Covid-19?

Your risk of getting infected is higher if you’ve come in contact with someone who’s positive or has travelled to places where there are increasing cases of local transmission.

Without proper protective measures, you are at high risk if you live or provide home care for someone who’s infected with the virus.

Older people are more vulnerable to Covid-19. Those who have the following are more likely to develop severe complications if they become infected:

  • Certain heart conditions
  • Severe obesity
  • Cancer
  • Compromised immune systems (i.e. HIV)
  • Certain lung conditions like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes

What are the complications of Covid-19

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus-Infected Pneumonia (NCIP) is the most serious complication of Covid-19. People admitted to the ICU usually died from this type of pneumonia. These deaths usually involved people who were old and had underlying health issues.

Aside from pneumonia, other complications of the virus include:

  • Heart attack or heart damage
  • Cardiovascular shock
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Is there a cure for Covid-19?

Currently, there is no vaccine available for Covid-19 but governments around the globe are funding and pushing the development of vaccines. The only treatment available today is focused on managing your symptoms until the infection is over. Example of these treatments include:

  • Steroids to reduce swelling of the lungs
  • Blood plasma transfusions
  • Retroviral or antiviral medications
  • Breathing support like ventilators, etc.

How to prevent Covid-19

The best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is to stay at home and practice social distancing when you are outside. This way, you can help limit the spread of the virus and help “flatten the curve” so our health system can catch up. If the infections continue to rise unchecked, our hospitals will be flooded with patients which could lead to the collapse of the country’s health system.

Aside from staying at home and practising social distancing, the tips below can also help reduce your risks of catching the virus:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • When your hands are dirty, don’t touch your face, nose, eyes, or mouth.
  • If you are feeling sick with flu or cold symptoms, stay at home.
  • Stay away from someone who is sneezing or coughing. How far? At least 1 metre.
  • When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with your elbow. If you use tissues, immediately dispose of it properly.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that you use a lot (computers, tablets, phones, doorknobs, kitchenware, etc.)
  • Don’t panic.

At the time of writing, total coronavirus cases around the globe have passed the 1 million mark with over 50,000 deaths, and over 200,000 recoveries.