It’s time to get some facts spread about the 2019 CoronaVirus – COVID-19.
Want an easier, shorter post with the common CoronaVirus memes and myths? I got you.
1) There is no need to panic. Take time to educate yourself and your loved ones about what this virus is and what it means to you with factual information. I am going to link as much as possible to medical papers, studies, and universities. This will allow you to research any of these points yourself and you should do so. I am not a Dr. There may be mistakes here. Please let me know via cited linked responses and I will correct anything.
2) This virus is roughly 2 months old. Information about the virus can and will change rapidly as we gather more information. What you heard was “fact last week” may no longer be a fact. Misinformation will be spreading as people continue to use outdated information. I will continue to update this post.
3) Epidemiology is the fancy word for the science of studying patterns of disease conditions in defined populations. The things I’m linking to often are from those people. It is their job to take information and predict the possible and likely outcome of disease. A lot of it is an educated prediction so remember that as you read through this.
Most of us don’t study disease every day so we need to learn a lot of new terms and ideas to understand what is going on as we navigate the news. I’ll do my best to make it easy to understand.
What is a CoronaVirus? What is this new version officially called?
On Dec 31, 2019 a NEW previously undiscovered coronavirus was reported to the World Health Organization(WHO) as spreading in China. It appeared to cause a more severe illness progressing to pneumonia than previous types of coronavirus.
The disease is COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease – 2019 discovery date).
The virus is SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2)
These are the official name from WHO on Feb 11th. Why both names? Most illnesses you know have these two types of names you are probably just not aware of it. AIDS is the disease, HIV the virus. Measles the disease, Rubeola the virus.
Because SARS had a really negative media impact a few years ago, this virus is generally referred to as “the COVID-19 virus” instead of SARS-CoV-2, but these are the official names that you may see used in various places so it is worth mentioning.
TL;DR: – Coronaviruses have been around for a long time but a new strain called COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 is spreading.
Coronavirus has been around a long time, but COVID-19 has not.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Some patients may have aches and pains, headache, confusion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. An early study from China with the exact break down of Symptoms of 99 early patients:
|Percentage of Patients with Symptom||Symptom|
|31%||shortness of breath|
|4%||rhinorrhoea (runny nose)|
|1%||nausea and vomiting|
These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.
Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.These asymptomatic (without any symptoms) people are still able to spread the virus.This is being investigated how this is possible. The majority of people recover from the disease without needing special treatment. A small number of people who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing, progressing into more serious illnesses that may lead to death. I’ll discuss that more later.
TL;DR :- Fever, cough and shortness of breath. People are able to spread the virus even if they are not showing any symptoms. A small percent get complications that may lead to death.
How does COVID-19 spread?
Because COVID-19 is still new tracking exactly how COVID-19 is spread is still being monitored and updated. The two main methods seem to be person-to person contact and surface to person contact via droplets. Narrowing down exactly how COVID-19 spreads is very important to control the disease. Pay attention to this information in the coming weeks
Types of Person to Person Transmission
COVID-19 has droplet transmission. Currently, the main known mode of transmission (how the virus is spread) is via droplet. An infected person coughs, breathes, talks, or sneezes and the virus releases in mucus or saliva. These tiny droplets spread onto another person or surface within roughly 6 meters. The virus enters the mucous membranes, like your nose, eyes, mouth. This is similar to how the cold or flu is spread.
It has been suggested COVID-19 has fecal-oral transmission. This means a person gets the virus from contaminated food and/or water. The virus then multiplies and is shed from the body in feces. The feces may contaminate the water supply through inadequate sewage treatment and water filtration. Fish and shellfish that swim in contaminated water may be used as food sources. If the infected individual is a waiter, cook, or food handler, then inadequate hand washing may result in food being contaminated with the virus. This is still under investigation.
It has been suggested COVID-19 has airborne transmission. Although airborne sounds like droplets, airborne viruses are capable of surviving for long periods of time outside the body and can therefore ‘float’ farther. This could mean for example, a person coughs in one room, and the wind or an indoor ventilation system could blow the virus into another room. It can spread farther than 6 meters, estimates say up to 100 meters in some instances. Chicken Pox and Tuberculosis are examples of airborne viruses. This is still under investigation.
What is Community Spread?
The USA has recently reported several cases of community spread COVID-19. This means the patient had not traveled to places where the virus is common and had no known exposure to anyone with COVID-19 – How they got the virus is unknown.
Italy is unable to find out how the cases started spreading there. It may be that it was spread via some of the transmission types above or via an asymptomatic individual.
What is the BRN or R0? What Does it Mean?
When we talk about virus spreading Epidemiologists use the term – basic reproduction number – or R0(pronounced R nought).This is an estimate of the average number of people in an uninfected, non-immunization population, who catch the virus from a single infected person. So if Bob is infected and the R0 is 2, Bob will infect 2 other people. Those 2 people will then each infect 2 more people and so on it spreads. Even going up or down a small number can change things dramatically.
The R0 is usually not a fixed number and can change depending on many factors. China has done a great amount of Nonpharmaceutical interventions to help stop the spread of the virus. Things like stopping public meetings, working from home, no kissing or hugging, quarantine areas, hand washing etc. This has caused the R0 number in China to drop dramatically.
Initially the COVID-19 virus R0 number was thought to be around 2.6.
Reports are now coming out that the number is likely closer to 4.7 – 6.6 in certain areas.
TL;DR: COVID-19 spreads via droplets. There are possible other transmission methods under investigation. It is currently spreading in many countries via community spread. The R0 number is 2.6 – 6.6.
Who is at risk from COVID-19? How many people are dying?
This information is still evolving. Anyone can get COVID-19. The virus infects people of all races, sexes and ages. It does not currently infect pets or other animals.
The majority of people (80%) who get the virus suffer from a mild or semi-serious flu. These people may be unaware they have COVID-19 and it might be a factor to it spreading. A percentage of people (20%) get more serious respiratory complications.People with compromised immune systems are more likely to get serious complications from COVID-19. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, obesity, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. Smoking also seems to play a risk in developing serious complications.
The 20% that get serious complications are nasty things like bilateral pneumonia, and acute respiratory distress syndrome. They require hospital assistance in the form of medical ventilators or they will likely die. The amount of trained staff to deal with these complications and the amount of ventilators around the world varies widely. Currently the USA has 62,188 full service ventilators according to a recent study. That same study says there are roughly 19 ventilators for every 100,000 adults in the USA. Other parts of the world the numbers are even more grim. This is the concerning part of the virus. It is a very real possibility that the amount of people who will be seriously sick will be larger than the amount of people and machines who can treat them, resulting in more deaths. This is why we need to take COVID-19 seriously.
What is the Case Fatality Rate?
Epidemiologists will use Case Fatality Rate(CFR) to determine how many people will die from the disease. This number is how many people have died from the total of infected patients over a period of time. It will be shown as a percentage and is often used to show how serious a disease is. The CFR for COVID-19 is still evolving. You will see all kinds of numbers in the media.
Some of the numbers that have been released for COVID-19 are a CFR of 2.3% This means that 2.3% of the total infected patients have died from COVID-19. The CFR jumped considerably among older patients, to 14.8% in patients 80 and older, and 8.0% in patients ages 70 to 79. Among the critically ill, the CFR was 49.0%.
These numbers are quite high for older and ill patients. It is these individuals who we are currently concerned about with this virus. These numbers will fluctuate wildly as we go through the stages of the virus. Try to keep the number and worries in check.
TL;DR: Anyone can get COVID-19. Most people will have flu like symptoms. Some will get serious respiratory complications and require ventilators. 2.3% is the current Case Fatality Rate for COVID-19 although this number frequently changes. Older and ill people have a much higher CFR rate.
If you think you are infected, should you go to the hospital?
Not necessarily. Only people with symptoms of severe respiratory illness should seek immediate medical care in the ER. If you have a health care provider or pediatrician, call them first for advice. If you suspect you are infected and do not have access to a Dr, you should isolate yourself from others and contact emergency services via telephone for the next steps. This limits the ability for the virus to spread to your family, the hospital, and everyone on your way to the hospital etc. Over the phone, medical staff can direct you to what you should do next – which may involve hospital – but they will be able to control the virus better with advance notice. If you have a mask the infected person should wear it to help stop the spread of droplets.
You should still try to attempt to contact ER in advance so they can prepare for possible contamination.
WHO has released a home care if you are dealing with a patient at home.
TL;DR: You should go to the hospital if you are having respiratory emergency or trouble breathing. In other circumstances, it is best to phone first so they can deal with containment if required.
What May Happen from the CDC
This paragraph is taken directly from the CDC website. It explains what we may expect in the coming weeks and months.
“More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States. Widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed. At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. Nonpharmaceutical interventions would be the most important response strategy.”
Non pharmaceutical interventions are what we need to start working on as communities. Staying home when sick, washing hands, social distancing, no social kissing, no handshaking and more are strategies we can all do.
TL;DR: The CDC is stating the virus will continue to spread in the USA. Start preparing for major changes to regular life.
What is it like in places where the virus is spreading?
“For the past two weeks or so, the city we live has more or less… shut down. People don’t go outside unless they have to – we take our dog for walks up on the roof of our apartment complex, make quick runs to 7/11 for supplies every two days or so (because I mean… alcohol is pretty much mandatory in a time like this), and… that’s pretty much it. Restaurants are for the most part all closed down. The city is essentially on the economic equivalent of life support – the only things that are open are convenience stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies. There’s checkpoints and roadblocks entering and leaving the city. Hell, every time we leave or enter our apartment complex we’re checked for symptoms by the doorman. ”
“About 50,000 residents in 11 towns in the industrialised and wealthy north have been told they cannot leave a cordoned area until March 6 — if they do, they face fines or up to three months’ imprisonment. The 400 police at the 35 checkpoints in a “red zone” of 10 Lombardy towns are reported to have stopped five attempted escapes. Essential supplies of food and medicine are allowed in but no one else can visit the affected towns. While individuals can leave their homes, they are not to go to school or work. Public gatherings are banned. “I went from spending my days at the shop, chatting everyday with friends who stop to say hi, going for a coffee at the nearby cafe, to seeing my town completely shocked and scared by the death from the virus,” said Ms Biasio on the phone. “And then the lockdown happened.” “
TL;DR: If the virus continues to spread like it has in other parts of the world, you should expect regular day-to-day life shut downs in your location. This will help to stop spread the virus and save lives.
What Does This All Mean? TL;DR:
Phew. There was a lot there but hopefully you have a better understanding now. Now let’s break this all down in a final recap.
- The virus spreads fast – COVID-19 is a new virus that rapidly spread from a single city to the entire country of China in just 30 days. Italy went from having 4 cases to hundreds in less than 4 days. It has an R0 of roughly 2.6 – 6.6.
- Many people are sick at once overwhelming medical staff – The sheer speed of both the geographical expansion and the sudden increase in numbers of cases surprised and quickly overwhelmed health and public health services in China.
- Serious cases will require ventilators – About 20% of cases will be serious and require trained medical staff and the use of ventilators.
- There could be more sick patients than ventilators – If there is a rapid influx of seriously ill patients all at once, who gets use of the ventilators will become a serious problem in most locations. Even the USA.
- The 1st death in Seattle USA, likely means the patient has been infected for several weeks. Washington may be where the virus epicenter starts in the USA.
What Should I Do?
Alright. Now that we got through all that, I hope you can see that this virus has potential to be quite serious and disrupt much of the world. You should not panic. You have educated yourself. It is time to prepare. Best case, If the virus does not reach your part of the world somehow, you may just have some extra supplies you can use.
You should – Get items for your house. Extra food, water, toilet paper, items you need to take care of yourself if you have the flu. Find a mask or make yourself a cloth one. These Will stop spreading the virus.You may need to isolate yourself or loved ones in your home for a period of time. Start limiting the public gatherings you go to. Decide if attending that conference or concert is really worth catching the virus. Ask your boss if you have the ability to work from home if it is eventually required in your area. The threat of COVID-19 is real. You can and should start preparing now.
Check out part 2 – Coronavirus Memes and Myths