Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the name given to the novel coronavirus in 2019. COVID-19 is the name given to the virus-associated disease. SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain of coronavirus with no form of identification in humans before. Coronaviruses are viruses that exist among animals, some of which are known to be infectious to humans.
Bats are considered to be natural hosts of these viruses and several other animal species are also believed to be a source of these viruses. For example, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is transmitted from camels to humans and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-1 (SARS-CoV-1) is transmitted from civet cats to humans.
The novel coronavirus found in China is genetically closely linked to the SARS-CoV-1 virus. SARS appeared in China at the end of 2002 and triggered more than 8 000 cases in 33 countries over a period of eight months. About one in ten of the people who developed SARS died.
The ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 caused close to 7 000 reported cases in China in the first month following initial reports (January 2020), with another 80 000 reported worldwide in the second month (February 2020). Of those first 87 000 cases, about 3 000 have died.
Viruses that cause both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are transmitted from person to person. The two viruses are very different and may cause similar symptoms. They do not behave in the same way. By contrast, the current estimated mortality rate for COVID-19 is 20-30 per 1 000 people.
In spite of the relatively low mortality rate for seasonal influenza, people die from the disease due to the large number of people who catch it each year. It is worrisome knowing that unlike influenza, there is no vaccine and no specific treatment. It also tends to be as communicable as, if not worse, influenza.
The severity of covid19 infection
Initial detection suggests that the death rate for COVID-19 is 20-30 per thousand people diagnosed. This is slightly less than the outbreak of SARS in 2003. Nevertheless, it is much higher than the seasonal influenza mortality rate.
Mode of transmission
While animals are the source of the virus, it is now transmitted from person to person. There is not enough epidemiological information at this time to establish how quickly and sustainably this virus spreads among humans, but it is currently estimated that, on average, one infected person would infect between two and three more.
It appears that the virus is spread primarily by respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough or exhale. The virus can also live on surfaces like tables and door handles for several hours.
The incubation period for COVID-19 is currently estimated to be between two and 14 days. There is evidence that transmission can occur from an infected person with no symptoms.
Symptoms of infection
The virus can cause mild flu-like symptoms such as: fever
Extreme cases of severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and septic shock can lead to death.
Who’s at risk?
Generally, elderly people and those with underlying health problems (e.g. obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer) are more likely to develop serious symptoms. The disease in children seems to be relatively rare and mild. A large study from China indicated that just over 2% of cases were under 18 years of age.
Of these, less than 3% had a serious or critical illness.
Is there medication for COVID-19 condition?
There is no specific treatment for this disease, but healthcare providers should manage the clinical symptoms (e.g. fever, trouble breathing) of patients. Supportive care (e.g. fluid control, oxygen therapy, etc.) can be highly effective for patients with symptoms.
- The virus enters your body through your eyes, nose and/or mouth, so it is important to avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or cleaning your hands with alcohol-based solutions, gels or tissues is recommended in all settings.
- It is also advised to remain 1 meter or more away from people who have signs of COVID-19 infection in order to reduce the risk of respiratory infection.