Image of Coronavirus

Posted by & filed under Community Health, Infectious Diseases and Infection Control, Wellness.

 

Since the first signs of the new respiratory virus called 2019 Novel Coronavirus (which causes COVID-19) made headlines in December 2019, the world has experienced its fifth pandemic after the 1918 flu pandemic. Originally traced to a wet market in Wuhan City, China, the virus has now (as of this writing) infected over 9 million individuals in over 213 countries and territories around the world. More than 480,000 people have died (Liu, Kuo, & Shih, 2020; Worldometers, 2020).

There are reports of asymptomatic infections (detection of the virus with no development of symptoms) and pre-symptomatic infections (detection of the virus prior to the development of symptoms) but their role in transmission is not yet known. Existing literature shows the incubation period (the time from exposure to development of symptoms) ranges from 2-14 days (CDC, 2020b).

At the present time, research from COVID-19 patients in China shows that up to 42% of them did not exhibit symptoms. In addition, asymptomatic patients shed the virus for less time (an average of 8 days) (Advisory Board, 2020).

Currently, symptoms of COVID-19 include the following (CDC, 2020a; Cha & Bernstein, 2020):

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Strokes (secondary to blood clots)
  • Neurological issues (resulting from blood clots)
  • New loss of smell and taste (anosmia)
  • Unexpected blood clotting
  • Damage to the lining of blood vessels
  • Pinkeye
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
  • Clogged and inflamed alveoli (air sacs in the lungs), difficulty breathing; pulmonary embolism from blood clots (large and small)
  • Weakened cardiac muscle
  • Heart arrhythmias and heart attacks (from clots)
  • Damage to structures that filter waste from blood (such as kidneys, etc.)
  • Purple or red rash and swelling of fingers and/or toes (“COVID toes”)

While COVID-19 mostly attacks individuals over 24 years of age, children have also experienced rare inflammatory responses with cardiac complications.


Testing

At the present time, testing remains the only clear and accurate way to determine if an individual has COVID-19.

Currently, two kinds of tests are available (CDC, 2020a):

  1. Viral tests—shows if someone has a current infection
  2. Antibody tests—shows if someone has had a previous infection (and is NOT recommended to diagnose an acute infection)

Antibody tests may not show if you have a current infection because it can take 1-3 weeks after an infection occurs for the body to make antibodies. In addition, we currently do not know if having antibodies to the virus protects someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection lasts (CDC, 2020a).


Flatten The Curve

Graph showing how flattening the curve alleviates healthcare system capacity overload, by spreading cases out over a longer period of time

Many thousands of infections could be prevented—or don’t need to happen all at once. The rate at which a population is infected dramatically impacts whether or not there are enough hospital beds, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel to treat those who are sick. “Flattening the curve” is one way to slow the spread of the virus.

The curve refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over time. It is only a prediction, but it takes on different shapes depending on the virus’ infection rate. The faster the curve rises, the quicker the local healthcare system gets overloaded beyond its capacity to treat people—those with COVID-19 and those with other illnesses. A flatter curve assumes the same number of people get infected over a longer period of time and results in a less stressed healthcare system and a great ability to treat individuals with COVID as well as those with other healthcare issues (such as cancer or heart disease) (Specktor, 2020). Healthcare workers experience less stress (reducing their chance of contracting COVID-19) and are better able to care for all of us as well as their own families.


Prevention

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, practice these actions:

  1. Avoid crowds. Stay home as much as you can. Avoid contact with anyone who is or might be sick. While this can be challenging at times, it is one of the best ways to stop the spread of infection.
  2. Clean your hands often, either with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  3. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people if you have to be in their presence.
  4. Cover your nose and mouth with a face covering when around others.
  5. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (or your sleeve), and then dispose of that tissue in the trash immediately. (This should be done all the time anyway!)
  6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily.
Coronavirus prevention illustration showing images representing mask wearing, hand washing, disinfecting, and symptom awareness

Think of wearing face masks and socially isolating as a simple, easy act of kindness. Imagine seeing it not as an infringement on your freedom but something you can do for others, especially those who are susceptible to the disease or may have autoimmune issues. If they were to contract the disease, it could have devastating consequences.

Wearing masks and social distancing also helps flatten the curve, reducing community-spread illnesses, and supporting local healthcare systems so they can treat other types of patients who may desperately need care (such as those with cancer or heart disease) and supporting healthcare providers by allowing them to care for us as well as their own families.

So, we encourage you to…

Stay Safe, Be Kind, Flatten The Curve


References

Advisory Board. (2020). How many Covid-19 patients have no symptoms? More than you might think. Retrieved July 3, 2020 from https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/06/01/asymptomatic-patients

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020a). Coronavirus (COVID-19). Retrieved May 21, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020b). Transmission. Retrieved July 3, 2020 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html

Cha, A., & Bernstein, L. (2020). Doctors keep discovering new ways coronavirus attacks body. Retrieved May 22, 2020 from https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/doctors-keep-discovering-new-ways-coronavirus-attacks-body/

Liu, Y., Kuo, R., & Shih, S. (2020).  COVID-19: The first documented coronavirus pandemic in history. Biomedical Journal. DOI.org/10.1016/j.bj.2020.04.007

Specktor, B. (2020). Coronavirus: What is ‘flattening the curve,’ and will it work? Retrieved June 24, 2020 from https://www.livescience,com/coronavirus-flatten-the-curve.html

Worldometers. (2020). Coronavirus cases. Retrieved June 24, 2020 from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/?