Today, almost the entire world is in complete lockdown, quarantined, and isolated from the outside world. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or infamously known as COVID-19 has plagued the entire world with almost 2 million confirmed cases worldwide and 100,000 deaths.
The first known case of the novel coronavirus may trace back to 1 December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei, China. The rapid increase in the number of Coronavirus cases was mostly linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which sold live animals. This has also contributed to a theory that the virus came from one of these kinds of animals; or, in other words, has a zoonotic origin.
In late January, following a large number of trips for the Chinese New Year, the virus had been transmitted to a dozen Asian countries. Following this, China launched a radical program to contain the Coronavirus. Labeled as “the largest mass quarantine in human history”, travel in and out from Wuhan was completely prohibited, which extended to over 15 cities in Hubei, affecting a total of around 57 million people. Countries such as Italy, South Korea, and Iran followed suit after an unprecedented spike in the number of confirmed cases and deaths.
The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO on 30 January 2020 and as a Global Pandemic on the 13th of March 2020.
For confirmed COVID-19 cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. These symptoms mostly appear about 2-14 days after exposure (based on the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses) and generally include fever and cough, like most viral infections. However, in more severe cases, people tend to experience symptoms of SARS – difficulty in breathing. While some people tend to remain symptomless for a long period of time despite being tested positive, SARS-CoV 2 is believed to be very dangerous and possibly fatal in compromised immune systems.
One of the biggest reasons for this global outbreak of the novel Coronavirus has to be the inability to test and diagnose it on time. Although it bears quite the resemblance to various previous SARS pathogens, the SARS-CoV 2 is a relatively new and enigmatic strain. By the time this strain could be identified properly, the virus had already been disseminated via carriers unaware of their infection. As of now, the most common tests are done by taking a swab of the nose or throat, which is sent off to a lab to look for signs of the virus’s genetic material. The other type of test that has proven effective, is an antibody test, that checks for the antibodies produced by the body to fight the virus.
The disease is believed to be primarily spread during close contact and by small droplets produced during coughing, sneezing, or talking; with close contact being within 1 to 2 metres (3 to 6 feet). Both sputum and saliva can carry large viral loads. Studies have also found that an uncovered cough can lead to droplets travelling up to 4.5 metres (15 feet) to 11.4 metres (37 feet).
Based on this, the WHO has devised a list of simple guidelines to help the general public stay safe from the virus-
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Maintain social distancing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Practice respiratory hygiene.
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.
According to the guidelines proposed by the WHO, the majority of countries in the world have announced total lockdown of the country – except essential services. This lockdown goes a long way in ensuring that there is minimal contact amongst the people and it aims to flatten the exponential increase in COVID-19 cases.
Although money is consistently being poured into research and testing to develop a definite treatment for the Coronavirus, as of now, no definite treatment has been discovered although the signs are very promising. As of right now, the only way to combat the virus is proper care and supervision. While over-the-counter cold and fever medications can be used to alleviate the symptoms, quarantine and self-isolation is the recommended course of action to prevent the spread of the virus.
Undoubtedly one of the bigger crises of the past couple of decades, the Coronavirus outbreak is a very tough time. However, with adequate research, proper precautions and global solidarity, we could soon see our world going back to normal.