what is covid-19?
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It belongs to a family of viruses that include the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, and SARS-CoV-2. Health officials have called SARS-CoV-2 a novel virus meaning it is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
WHAT IS THE SOURCE?
During the beginning stages of discovery, it was widely suspected that the virus first appeared in a seafood market in Wuhan, China. However, after a recent study conducted in January 2020, findings suggest this may not be true. The individual with the first reported case had no link to the seafood market. Therefore, ongoing investigations continue. Coronaviruses, interestingly, occur in both humans and in animals such as camels, bats, cats, and cattle. It is very rare that it transmits between humans and animals; but when it does, it is called a spillover event.
HOW IS IT SPREAD?
Currently, data suggests transmission occurs:
When an infected person sneezes or coughs
Through close contact
When an individual touches an infected surface or object, and then proceeds to touch their face
The droplets can be inhaled by a non-infected individual and infect them. However, it is unclear how long the virus lives on surfaces such as door knobs, mail packages, gas pumps. Recent studies have suggested the virus acts similarly to other coronaviruses varying from hours to days based on environmental conditions. If you suspect a surface to be infected, remember to clean it with a disinfectant and practice proper hand hygiene.
WHO IS AT HIGHER RISK?
Currently, older adults and people at any age with serious underlying medical conditions are thought to be at higher risk.
Underlying medical conditions include but are not limited to individuals with:
Chronic lung disease
Chronic kidney disease
Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
why is it important to stay home?
We have been advised to practice social distancing or physical distancing. Distancing means to keep at least 6 feet from other people and avoid crowds. There are several important reasons to stay home and abide by the government orders. Currently, there is no vaccine and because this is a novel virus, our bodies do not have pre-existing defenses. Health experts believe that everyone is susceptible regardless of gender, age, health, etc.
Epidemiologists have been advising the country to increase social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, so a surge of infected individuals does not occur at once also known as “flattening the curve.” If an overwhelming increase was to occur, our healthcare system would not be able to provide the necessary care - beds, ventilators, and personnel. Unfortunately, Italy has already faced these consequences.