For many that may be wondering: what exactly is the coronavirus? The coronavirus is a term coined to describe a family of existing viruses that cause harm to both humans and animals. But why do you see news headlines refer to it as Covid-19? Well, Covid-19 is a highly infectious respiratory illness caused by the recent discovery of a novel coronavirus strain named SARS-CoV-2.
Where Did it Originate From?
The initial outbreak of the virus originated in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province in mainland China. On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities reported the outbreak to the World Health Organization although early cases of the disease might have occurred early in December.
So far there have been many rumors regarding the origins of the virus and how it came to be. The most likely origins backed by current scientific research seem to suggest the virus evolved and jumped from an animal species to humans. Scientists speculate that species might have been either bats or pangolins.
With SARS-Cov-2 being structurally similar to the bat and pangolin coronaviruses, the question seems to be on how it jumped from animals to humans in the first place. It is possible the virus jumped from the species of origin to an intermediate species, then finally to humans.
What Are The Symptoms?
Before the onset of symptoms, an individual will first undergo an incubation period. The incubation period is defined as the time between when one becomes infected and when someone exhibits symptoms. For Covid-19, the incubation period can range from 1 to 14 days. An accurate and precise time frame will be created as more data is compiled from future research.
Here are the main symptoms you should be on the lookout for with regard to Covid-19:
- Dry Cough
- Shortness of breath
It is important to note that symptoms will vary from patient to patient. Some of the symptoms that patients may experience can include diarrhea, sore throat, runny nose, and nasal congestion. Currently, with the number of cases rising, 80% of patients tend to experience mild symptoms. Another 15% experience severe respiratory problems with the remaining 5% ending up in critical condition (respiratory failure, organ failure, etc.)
Source: Al-Jazeera Image
How Does it Compare to Other Illnesses?
Symptoms of Covid-19 can be confused with those of other illnesses or conditions spreading around this time of year such as the common cold, influenza, or allergies. While some symptoms may be similar, there are specific symptoms that differentiate one condition from the other.
For instance, a key distinction between Covid-19 and the other underlying conditions is the difficulty in breathing that develops in the patient. While this seems to be one of the ways of identifying Covid-19, you should make reference to the symptoms stated above and get tested if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
So how does it compare to MERS and SARS? Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease that propagates easier in comparison to both MERS and SARS. All of these diseases form part of the coronavirus family and cause similar respiratory issues. However, in contrast to the infection rate, the mortality rate for Covid-19 is far less. Even with fewer cases, MERS and SARS have high potential to cause death which would lead to lesser recovery rates than Covid-19.
Source: Mutual of America
How Will Covid-19 Affect Us?
There have been studies conducted on Covid-19 that provide an insight into which demographics are more likely to be affected by the virus. With research still ongoing and many more cases to assess across the globe, scientists have been able to catalog the number of cases, infection, mortality, and recovery rates of Covid-19.
As it stands the total number of worldwide cases is 378,492 with an average of 20,000 and 30,000 cases reported each day. From these cases, a total of 101,608 (86%) individuals managed to recover, while 16,495 cases have ended in death. The mortality rate for Covid-19 sits around 3.4% according to the WHO, and the percentage may be subject to change as the situation continues to develop.
The virus mainly affects individuals over the age of 65, and the likelihood of succumbing to the disease increases with age – especially for those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, and more. In addition, Covid-19 seems to affect males more than females. While there’s a higher mortality rate for older generations, we shouldn’t forget that younger individuals are still subject to the disease and may act as asymptomatic carriers in the population.
Social and Economic Impact
The potential socioeconomic impact of Covid-19 is still being assessed by many economists and organizations. With the implementation of strict stay-at-home measures throughout affected countries, the question that lingers among experts is: how much will the global economy contract due to this virus?
Economists have predicted that unemployment rates in the US could reach as high as 20% if nothing is done now to address the situation. According to Bloomberg Economics, global growth has slowed 1.2% and is expected to slow down even more in later months depending on how the situation continues. As factories and stores close down due to strict measures to lessen viral spread, you should expect further complications down the road as countries cease economic activity in their cities. Consequently, the imposition of travel restrictions will only compound as revenue losses continue to grow.
Beyond the economic impact, the effect of social isolation as a result of mandated curfews is something that is beginning to take hold. Consumer confidence to shop, interact, or go out has declined. With more and more people staying at home every day, our relationship with the world around us will change. From work to education to technological use, the possibilities are endless. Even when the pandemic ends, the long-term effects that it will have as people readjust to a post-COVID world have yet to be measured.
How Can We Treat It and Future Research
Unfortunately, if you were to contract the virus, there are no vaccines or antiviral treatment options. Scientists in numerous countries have already begun research and clinical in an effort to create a cure. Estimates as to when the vaccine will be ready for public use put it as far as 18 months away.
Nonetheless, researchers are working at unprecedented rates experimenting with different viral medications in an effort to curb the severity rates of Covid-19. From chloroquine to haloperidol, clinical trials are underway to assess the effects of these medications on the human body. Scientists want to avoid creating a situation in which the medication results in further issues, so thorough research is required.
In the meantime governments worldwide are encouraging different measures in order to reduce infection rates. An effective policy that crowds should be practicing is social distancing (6 feet or more of space between people). It is also advised that individuals avoid crowds of 3 or more people.
Furthermore, proper sanitation procedures such as washing hands, wearing masks, or covering your face are recommended. Remember to reduce your outside presence as much as possible, and to get tested should you have any symptoms.