The current Coronavirus strain, Covid-19, has taken the world by storm and in a short space of time has rapidly affected people's lives. Life-threatening for older people and those with certain medical conditions, for most of the population it will be a rather benign illness. Some governments have reacted swiftly to impose restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. And there have been successes. Notably in China, and South Korea, while others are struggling to cope such as Italy. Whatever the country or the circumstances, however, being informed about Coronavirus is important. Whether it's to know how to prevent contracting the virus, or what travel arrangements and restrictions exist. This article provides the tools and information to become knowledgeable and to access the latest information on a rapidly changing situation.
Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. For example, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is a Coronavirus which between November 2002 and July 2003 recorded over 8,000 cases resulting in 774 deaths in 17 countries. A key aspect of a Coronavirus is that they transfer from some animals to humans. For example, SARS spread from bats to a small mammal called a civet cat. From there it spread to humans in the Yunnan province of China.
The current strain of Coronavirus called COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan wholesale market. Located in the centre of the city, it sells live and slaughtered animals.
This Coronavirus spreads from an infected person to others via respiratory droplets. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales it can spread to others. Generally, you must be within six feet of someone contagious and come into contact with these droplets. It may also be possible that a person can get this strain of Coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it. By then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly eyes, you could get infected.
Based on preliminary data, scientists believe that one infected person will infect between 2 and 3 other people. From the time someone is exposed, it can take between 2 and 14 days for someone to develop the symptoms.
Those infected may develop a fever, dry cough, and experience fatigue, and shortness of breath. A sore throat, runny nose or sneezing is less common. Other less common symptoms include muscle or joint pain, chills, nausea and diarrhea. The majority of cases result in mild symptoms. But, it can progress to pneumonia or more severe issues including kidney failure.
Regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds is recommended. If soap is unavailable then a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used. Also, it is recommended to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
If you come across someone who is sick, stay at least 6 feet away from them. It is also recommended to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using household cleaners. As well everyone is advised to use a tissue or the crook of your elbow if coughing or sneezing.
The Canadian public health service also advises to clean the following high-touch surfaces with regular household cleaners or diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water):
While masks do help prevent the spread of infection, they are only advised for people already infected. Or those caring for infected people.
The SARS Coronavirus from 2002 to 2004 had a mortality rate of 10% of those who became infected. The common flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1%, while the COVID-19 Coronavirus currently has a mortality rate of about 2-3%. Yet, many health experts believe that the rate will drop as the number of cases rises. This is because an estimated 80% of Coronavirus cases are mild, and patients entering hospitals have the most severe symptoms. People with mild symptoms who recover at home aren't counted in the official totals.
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There is one very important difference between this Coronavirus and say the flu. This strain of Coronavirus appears to be most harmful to older people. And to those with health problems that make them more susceptible to infection or pneumonia. For example, at the time of writing no child has died of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Even though there have been hundreds of cases but not one child under the age of 10 has died. By comparison, 125 children in the United States alone have died from the flu this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
But, the mortality rate from this Coronavirus is much higher for people aged 80+ at about 21.9 percent. By comparison, people 10-39 have a rate of about 0.2 percent. Health issues are also a major factor. Those suffering from cardiovascular diseases have an increased mortality rate of 13.2 percent and diabetes is in second with 9.2 percent.
As of writing this article the top 10 countries based on the number of infections are shown in the chart below. In addition to countries, the cruise ship the Diamond Princess had nearly 700 infections alone.
Although this Coronavirus started in China, their infection rate has peaked and is on the decline. As well, the Chinese have now placed restrictions on international travellers entering the country. This is to protect their citizens from the spread by foreign travellers.
Mortality rates across countries vary based upon many factors. For example, the mortality rate in Italy is very high in part due to the older population in Italy who are more at risk. Also, the ability of a countries healthcare system to deal with the numbers of cases is likely a factor.
If you're in a high-risk group (over 60, have pre-existing lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system) you should seek treatment if you get sick. It can quickly go from a cough to full-blown pneumonia. Call your doctor or clinic first with your suspicions so they can direct you accordingly. If you're not in a high-risk group, it's better to self-isolate at home with plenty of fluids and anti-fever meds. Odds are you'll recover, and this way you won't expose anyone. You should still call your doctor. They may be able to direct you to people at the health department who can conduct testing. Don't go to the ER unless you're experiencing life-threatening symptoms.
Despite the low mortality rate for seasonal influenza, many people die from the disease due to the large number of people who contract it each year. The concern about the COVID-19 Coronavirus is that there is no vaccine or specific treatment, currently. And it also appears to be as transmissible as influenza if not more so. As well, since it is a new virus, nobody has prior immunity. Meaning that the entire human population is potentially susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
The good news is that the world is in better shape to come up with a medical solution — a Coronavirus drug or vaccine — than it’s ever been. Within a couple of weeks of discovering the outbreak, Chinese scientists sequenced the virus’s genome and shared it with the world. Pharmaceutical companies and research centers then began mobilizing and developing new ways to prevent and treat Covid-19.
Scientists are racing to develop treatments and vaccines to stop the outbreak. For example, biotech company Gilead is testing a drug called remdesivir. And Moderna has submitted a potential vaccine for initial testing. Many pharmaceutical companies have started attempts to develop a vaccine and clinical trials are underway.
While a vaccine might be many months away, a great deal of progress has happened in a short time. For example, the World Health Organization posted this on social media recently: "We are eight weeks into this #COVID19 outbreak, yet we have identified the virus, we have the genetic sequence, PCR & serological assay in use. This wealth of knowledge is unprecedented for a new disease.#coronavirus"
Governments around the world have taken many actions to isolate and prevent the rapid spread of the disease. These measures are to help healthcare systems treat infected people experiencing severe symptoms. If healthcare systems get overwhelmed by a massive flood of patients they will be less able to treat people.
For example, according to the WHO’s assistant director-general Bruce Aylward…. “To actually stop the virus, [China] had to do rapid testing of any suspect case, immediate isolation of anyone who was a confirmed or suspected case, and then quarantine the close contacts for 14 days so that they could figure out if any of them were infected,” Aylward told New Scientist in an exclusive interview. “Those were the measures that stopped transmission in China, not the big travel restrictions and lockdowns.”
This is a particular problem with Covid-19 because up to 80 percent of those infected may have only mild or moderate symptoms. “If those people are all out of hospital, most of your cases are at home, but not isolated,” says Aylward. “In China, they found that didn’t work. They had to get them isolated in hospitals or dormitories or stadiums. The main goal was to keep them from getting bored.” As well “South Korea has been pretty rigorous about testing all the suspect cases and finding all the contacts. In the last couple of days, they seem to have turned a corner.”
Canada has imposed very strict entry restrictions to slow the spread of Coronavirus. For example, Canada has closed its borders to those who are not citizens or residents. Some Provinces in Canada have taken the steps to close schools as well. Canada has also set up an extensive testing system.
Contrary to China and others, the United States has done very little testing to date. It has, however, imposed restrictions on people travelling from Canada, Iran, China, South Korea, Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
First of all, if you are travelling make sure that you are well prepared and understand the preventative measures needed to keep you safe.
Secondly, when travelling to a country it is critical to check for updates on travel restrictions. In some cases, you may not be able to enter the country, or in others, you will have other restrictions imposed. For example, the USA requires anyone entering from select countries, to undergo a 14 day, self-imposed quarantine. This includes if you are travelling from China, Iran, South Korea, Europe or the UK and Ireland.
In other cases, restrictions may be imposed on which airport you can fly to. For example, Canada recently announced that only 4 airports would accept international travellers. They are Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. This is presumably to allow for stringent monitoring and containment of arriving passengers. As well, Canada has imposed restrictions on airlines too. Now preventing them from allowing passengers showing signs of illness from travelling.
Before planning any travel also check the spread of the virus in the country you are travelling to. This site, updated regularly, shows the spread of Coronavirus worldwide. With specific statistics for many countries around the world. For example as of writing, popular tourist destinations in Central and South America are reporting a small number of cases. For example, Mexico and Costa Rica report 82 cases with 4 deaths, and 41 cases with no reported deaths respectively.
Other considerations to take into account before travelling should also include where you will be staying. For example, are you staying in a large all-inclusive resort with thousands of other tourists from around the world? Or are you staying in a small boutique hotel but in the heart of a large city? Or are you staying in a vacation apartment rental in a secluded quiet area? These options all have very different levels of risk associated with them, even within the same country.
The situation with Coronavirus is changing very rapidly. So it is important to receive regular updates. Not only are the infection rates changing, responses and precautions that governments impose are also changing rapidly.
World Health Organization - Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Coronavirus – World Health Organization
Updated Numbers of Coronavirus Infections Across The World
Frequently Asked Questions about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Government of Canada Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Prevention and risks
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Travel advice – Government of Canada
US CDC Travelers from Countries with Widespread Sustained (Ongoing) Transmission Arriving in the United States
Mexican Government Coronavirus Updates
Guidance for British people travelling and living overseas during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Coronavirus action plan: a guide to what you can expect across the UK
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control - Q & A on COVID-19
This current Coronavirus strain, Covid-19, has taken the world by storm and in a short space of time has rapidly affected people's lives. Life-threatening for older people and those with certain medical conditions, for most of the population it will be a rather benign illness. Some governments have reacted swiftly to impose restrictions to slow the spread of the disease. And there have been successes. Notably in China, and South Korea, while others are struggling to cope such as Italy. Whatever the country or the circumstances, however, being informed about Coronavirus is important. Whether it's to know how to prevent contracting the virus, or what travel arrangements and restrictions exist. Now you have the knowledge and access to the latest information on this rapidly changing situation.
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