COVID-19: The New Virus in Town and What Do We Know?

COVID-19, previously known as the novel coronavirus and 2019-nCoV has made its inaugural ‘debut’ at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China.

In March 2020, the outbreak has been declared a world pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after spreading to 209 countries and territories. The top countries ranked with the most affected cases by far include the United States, Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

So, what is the Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses and range widely in severity. The first known severe illness caused by a coronavirus emerged with the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China. A second outbreak of severe illness began in 2012 in Saudi Arabia with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

 

Origins of COVID-19

Based on its genomic sequencing analysis and overall molecular structure, the COVID-19 is believed to be a product of natural evolution that originated by two possible scenarios as published by Scripps Research Institute.

They have ruled out the fact that COVID-19 is not made in a laboratory nor otherwise engineered. This means that the virus is a result of an evolvement from natural selection. COVID-19’s molecule data is mostly similar to coronaviruses found in bats, pangolins and armadillo-like mammals – but in this case it is more similar to a bat coronavirus. However, the specific species for the source is still undetermined.

Just like SARS and MERS, the coronavirus exists in a non-human host and then jumped to humans most likely through the connection involving bats and humans.

Read more about the comparison between COVID-19, SARS and MERS here.

 face mask prevents covid19 spread

COVID-19 Symptoms

The COVID-19 virus when successfully infects the human body, it targets the lungs. This lack of oxygen and widespread inflammation can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, brain, and other organs.

An infected person will have similar symptoms to those who are experiencing a common flu or cough.

· Mild but main symptoms: fever, tiredness, shortness of breath and dry cough;

· Severe symptoms: pneumonia, kidney failure and death.

The WHO added that some patients may experience muscle and body aches or pains, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat or diarrhoea.

Another note that should be taken into great consideration is that you may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms may also take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus.

Should you start having symptoms, it is best to take immediate action. Go consult a doctor and seek early medical care to help yourself feel at ease. Ensure you share both your travel history as well as the people who you were in contact with that may assist in the consultation.

COVID-19: The Ways of Spreading, the Risk-Infected Ones and the Importance of Personal Hygiene

How does COVID-19 spread?

From its backstory above, we now know that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus originated from animals and is now affecting humans.  

a) Respiratory Transmission: The coronavirus spreads primarily through the droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. However, it is not identified as airborne as these virus droplets are too heavy to travel a long distance. They will instead fall to nearby surfaces and cause contamination.

b) Contact transmission: The second most possible way of spreading the coronavirus is through common surfaces. This is when the droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose emitted from the respiratory tract of an infected individual land on a surface. After that, another person touches that surface/ object, then touches their nose, mouth or eyes. The virus then sneaks into the body and starts infecting the second person.

There are currently NO proof and evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted via food or through pets like dogs, so you may still order delivery services or take-away your favourite food at the hawkers’.

 hand hygiene alcohol gel social distancing

Which groups of people are most likely to be infected with COVID-19?

Statistics have shown that most cases and deaths are related to the elderly and people with chronic health conditions (examples: chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension), both groups whom are at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus. The most common explanation for this is because of their low immunity functions that causes them to be more prone and vulnerable.

However, young people should not take their health for granted as well. Judging by how fast and strong the virus is affecting people’s health, we have to remain just as cautious and continue to do our part to protect ourselves.

You may still test positive for COVID-19 even after you recover

Lately, patients whom have recovered from COVID-19 have been testing positive again. China and South Korea have reported that the coronavirus patients whom have recovered, are being tested positive for the second time.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has shared the following median time from symptoms onset to clinical recovery for COVID-19 patients:

· Mild cases: approximately 2 weeks

· Severe cases with critical diseases: 3 – 6 weeks

How is this and why is it happening?

On average, people with COVID-19 shed or emit the virus for 20 days, with some shedding it for up to 37 days. They can shed viruses for weeks, even months, after they feel well again, and therefore might be undergoing a long course of the disease. Therefore some COVID-19 tests are positive as they are detecting lingering pieces of the virus’s genetic material.

Are they still considered contagious?

Infections and spread of COVID-19 happen based on if and how people shed viruses after recovering from the illness. Post-recovery shedding has been under-researched, and people could, in theory, be less contagious after they’ve recovered than they were at the start or peak of their illness. Despite that, infections vary from person to person.

COVID-19: The Importance of Personal Hygiene?

While there is hope for all with the rising number of recovering cases of COVID-19, it is now vital to keep ourselves safe in the best ways possible and advised by the WHO.

The easiest way to prevent ourselves from being infected and affected by the virus is to maintain personal hygiene measures and standard cleanliness at all times. One of the most basic and easiest step for this is to constantly keep our hands clean and avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth as that is the quickest way for the virus to enter our system.

World Water Day 2020 was recently celebrated on 22 March, and their message for this year was for everyone to play an essential role in handwashing. In order to keep ourselves, our society and our community safe, it is only through a simple act: to wash our hands and in the correct manner.

Always ensure your hands are washed regularly with soap and water, or with alcohol-based hand rubs (more than 60% alcohol content).

Other preventive measures for COVID-19

a) COVID-19 has a limited geographic spread, therefore it is necessary to avoid close contact with those who are sick. This is why social distancing and sheltering in place is important as it helps to limit the contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces. You are advised to stay at least 6 feet between yourself and others to decrease the transmission from either minimally symptomatic or asymptomatic people.

b) While the virus is not airborne, the liquid droplets from your sneeze and cough may contaminate the surface that you have just sneezed or cough on. Even if it is not a serious cough and you are just clearing your throat, it is better to cover both your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing.

c) Wear a mask ONLY if you are coughing and sneezing. If you are healthy, only wear it if you are caring for a person suspected of the coronavirus. WHO advises on the correct ways on wearing masks here.

d) Ensuring meat products are cooked thoroughly before consuming as raw meat contains bacteria and germs that may cause you to be unwell.

e) While there are no proof that animals may catch the COVID-19 virus, however, there are still investigations on certain street animals like cats may have the possibility of getting infected. The best way forward is to avoid unnecessary contact with animals, and wash your hands directly should you have any contact with them.

f) Eat healthy to boost immunity by increasing fruit and vegetable intake for your body to absorb the needed nutrients.

Fighting COVID-19: Doing our part by staying safely and healthily at home

Though there are many news informing that scientists worldwide are in the midst of researching and developing a vaccine for COVID-19, we need to keep in mind that there is currently no specific cure for the virus, yet.

Many governments have already announced and implemented strict measures as efforts to curb the violent spread of COVID-19. These measures include the closing of national and international borders, specific travel restrictions, restricted movement orders/ movement control orders and curfews for certain small businesses and delivery orders.

Singapore has also announced the beginning of “Circuit-Breaker”, a preventive measure to enforce safe-distancing measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 

Your health and safety are utmost priorities, and WhatsDoc offers flexible and convenient screening services through video consultations. Book an appointment with one of our panel doctors and healthcare professionals now.

For more information on COVID-19 from trusted and certified sources, do check out the separate COVID-19 pages on the Singapore Ministry of Health or World Health Organisation.

References:

1. COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin

2. Coronavirus: Comparing COVID-19 SARS and MERS

3. COVID-19 Health Emergencies

4. Updates on COVID-19