COVID-19 pandemic claiming thousands of lives

Authors: Drs. Alfred Adjiri-Awere, Ben Enyetornye, Obed Danso Acheampong, Richard Abbiw, Boateng Kwadwo Yeboah, Jeffrey Bondzi Wi-Afedzi, Dominic Osei.

The ongoing 2019–2020 coronavirus pandemic was first identified, in December 2019, in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province; and, it has since spread globally.

Definition

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease, caused by a novel coronavirus, called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu), with symptoms such as a cough, fever, itchy throat and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing.

You can protect yourself by washing your hands, frequently, avoid touching your face, and avoid close contact, by maintaining a distance of separation of 1 meter or 3 feet from the sick or infected persons and, at the time of the pandemic, from people in public spaces.

What is coronavirus and how did it get its name?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses. They are called coronaviruses because the virus particle exhibits a characteristic ‘corona’ (crown) of spike proteins around its lipid outer envelope. CoV infections are common in animals and humans.

Some strains of CoV are zoonotic, meaning can be transmitted between animals and humans; however many strains are not zoonotic. The current pandemic is caused by a new strain from the coronavirus family, which infect birds and mammals.

Strictly, the term ‘coronavirus’ could be referring to any member of the entire family of coronaviruses; although, right now it is being used, in most mainstream media, to refer simply to the current pandemic. On the 11th February, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the name for the disease would be COVID-19, with CO referring to corona, VI to Virus, D to disease and 19 to 2019.

Where WHO refers to the virus itself, they call it the COVID-19 virus. Prior to announcing the new name, WHO had been calling it 2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV. ‘COVID-19 virus’ is not, however, the scientific name for the virus.

The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses the body that decides what viruses are called have named it Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, because the virus is genetically related to the one that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003.

However WHO have said they will not use the term SARS (or SARS-CoV-2), when communicating with the public, because it could have “unintended consequences in terms of creating unnecessary fear for some populations, especially in Asia, which was worst affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003.”

WHO will therefore refer to the virus as “the virus responsible for COVID-19” or “the COVID-19 virus”; although, they note that neither is intended as a replacement for the official name: SARS-CoV-2.

Mode of transmission (How it spreads)

Coronavirus disease spreads primarily via virus-laden respiratory droplets, produced when the infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths, noses, or eyes of people, who are nearby or, possibly, be inhaled into the lungs of those within close proximity.

It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell.

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people, who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

General protection measures for everyone Stay abreast with the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through the national health authority (MoH). Many countries around the world have seen cases of COVID-19 and several have seen outbreaks.

Some simple COVID-19 precautions:

 Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub/sanitizers or wash them with soap and water.

 Social distancing: maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and

anyone, who is coughing or sneezing.

 Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

 Ensure good respiratory hygiene: cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue, immediately, in a bin with a lid.

 Stay home, if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions given by the national health authorities (MoH).

 Avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.

Protection measures for persons, who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading.

Follow the guidance outlined above (General protection measures for everyone), Self-isolate by staying at home, if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache, low grade fever (37.3 C or above) and slight runny nose, until you recover.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly, as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition.

Any treatment or vaccination for COVID-19?

Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. There is treatment of the symptoms for confirmed cases. People with serious illness are to be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care.

Incubation period

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days.

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 zoonotic?

Zoonoses are diseases common to humans and animals. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals. Occasionally, people get infected with these viruses that may then spread to other people. For example, SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels.

Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed; but, once animal (two dogs, a cat and a tiger) cases have been confirmed the possibility of zoonosis has to be treated with caution.

Although, COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, it is in the best interest of every pet owner to protect himself or herself; therefore, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly after making contacts with your pets.

Protection of one’s self is highly advised when visiting a live animal market, by avoiding direct contact with animals and surfaces that have been in contact with animals. Wear hand gloves when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs, handle them with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal product.

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