Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID -19) is a newly described viral disease not previously seen in humans. It is in the same family of viruses responsible for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003.
Coronavirus is part of a large family of viruses that originated in animals and spread to humans. The current disease emerged in the Wuhan region of China in December 2019 and has become a “pandemic”, defined as a disease that progresses to world-wide exposure.
Current understanding indicates that COVID-19 is passed from person to person and within communities. Typical transmission from contact with an infected person occurs from coughing, sneezing or nasal discharge, and from droplets of saliva. COVID-19 appears to be highly transmissible, meaning that it spreads relatively easily.
Persons at highest risk include the elderly and persons with chronic disease such as heart, lung or kidney disease and anyone with a weakened or suppressed immune system. Children appear to be less prone to illness from Coronavirus, perhaps due to early exposure to similar viruses and greater T cell immune response.
Incubation, or the time from exposure to showing signs of disease, is felt to be 5 days on average with recent research indicating most patients will show symptoms by 14 days from exposure. However , approximately 1 % of patients become symptomatic after the currently recommended quarantine of 14 days.
Symptoms of Coronavirus COVID-19 include
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath and in severe cases, pneumonia.
Although the majority of cases are mild and self-limited, the global death rate from COVID-19 is 3.4%. Seasonal influenza, in comparison, has a death rate of 0.1% of those infected.
Differences between Coronavirus COVID-19 and Influenza
The symptoms of Coronavirus infection can be similar to the “flu” or seasonal influenza.
Flu season lasts typically from December to April, making this time of year difficult as both diseases are present.
Differences between Seasonal influenza “flu” and Coronavirus infection include
- Runny nose and sneezing: more common in flu and seasonal allergy but less common with COVID-19
- Body aches : common with flu but less common in COVID-19
- Sore throat : common with flu but less common in COVID-19
There is currently no vaccine or medications to prevent coronavirus disease
However, you can reduce your chance of becoming infected with some simple but effective actions including
- Washing hands frequently with soap and water or 60% alcohol-based hand wash. Twenty seconds is optimal
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
You can also take steps to prevent others from becoming infected by taking the following actions
- Stay home if you are mildly ill- even mild illness described above can be transmitted so do the right thing for others by recovering at home. If you are ill to the point of needing medical care, call ahead for instructions before going to your healthcare provider
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough using a tissue or the inside of your elbow
- If you are sick, wear a facemask when you are around others ; if you are not sick there is no indication that a mask is needed.
- Clean and disinfect areas where contact is likely; doorknobs, phones, handles, and bathroom areas are especially important
Current approach in the US
Social distancing, or minimizing large sources of disease spread by decreasing conditions of crowding has worked in the past and seemed to limit the COVID-19 spread in some regions of China. Closing public gathering places, including schools, houses of worship and encouraging work from home appears to be the current approach to limit disease spread.
Although Coronavius pandemic is new, worldwide disease pandemics are not. The majority of cases are mild and require only supportive care. Awareness and appropriate precautions noted here can help us make the best of this current situation. For further information , consult the coronavirus.gov website .