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The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) generated a lot of news in January 2020 worldwide because of the unprecedented speed of its transmission.
From its origins, which was believed to be a food market in Wuhan, China in December 2019, to countries as far as the United States and the Philippines, the virus has infected tens of thousands, with a rising death toll of over 2,000 till date.
In spite of the global panic in the news about this virus, you are unlikely to contract COVID-19 unless you have been in contact with someone who recently traveled to certain parts of China or the affected regions of the world.
The great news, however, is that there is no need to worry about the 2019 coronavirus if you have not recently traveled to China or been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the virus.
What causes coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are zoonotic. This means they first develop in animals before overflowing into humans.
For the virus to pass from animal to humans, a person has to come into close contact with an animal that carries the infection.
Once the virus develops in people, coronaviruses can be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. This is a technical name for the wet stuff that moves through the air when you cough or sneeze.
The viral material hangs out in these droplets and can be breathed into the respiratory tract where the virus can then lead to an infection.
What are the symptoms?
You may carry the virus for 2 days or up to 2 weeks before you notice symptoms.
Some common symptoms that have been specifically linked to the 2019 coronavirus include:
- cough that gets more severe over time
- a low-grade fever that gradually increases in severity
- Shortness of breath
Who is at increased risk?
You are at high risk for developing this virus if you come into contact with someone who is carrying it, especially if you have been exposed when they coughed or sneezed and to their saliva.
Washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces can help decrease your risk for catching this or other viruses.
Older men seem to be especially susceptible to the virus. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that the median age of people testing positive for this coronavirus was around 45 years and that over two-thirds of those people were male.
When do you need to seek help?
If you experience any of the symptoms above and have traveled to China in the past 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone with confirmed COVID-19 within the last 14 days, visit the health facility right away
What treatments are available?
There is currently no treatment specifically approved for the 2019 coronavirus, and no cure for an infection, however, treatments and vaccines are currently under study. Symptomatic treatment focuses on managing symptoms as the virus runs its course.
Seek immediate medical help if you think you have COVID-19. Your doctor will recommend treatment for any symptoms or complications that develop.
What are the possible complications from COVID-19?
The most serious complication of COVID-19 is a type of pneumonia that’s been called 2019 novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia (NCIP).
Results from studies conducted in Wuhan hospitals in China found that 26 percent of those admitted had severe cases and needed to be treated in the intensive care unit (ICU) and about 4.3 percent of these people died from this type of pneumonia.
So far, NCIP is the only complication specifically linked to the 2019 coronavirus. But researchers have seen the following complications in people who have developed the coronavirus:
- acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- cardiovascular shock
- severe muscle pain (myalgia)
- heart attack
How to prevent coronaviruses
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Limit contact with people who are showing symptoms of the virus and have traveled to China in the past 14 days.
The next best thing you can do is practice good personal hygiene to prevent viruses from spreading.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Do not touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth when your hands are dirty.
- Do not go out if you are feeling sick or have any cold or flu symptoms.
- Cover your mouth with the inside of your elbow whenever you sneeze or cough. Throw away any used tissues appropriately.
- Keep all objects you frequently come in contact with clean. Use disinfectants on objects such as phones, computers, utensils, dishware, and door handles.