Coronavirus is an umbrella term for viruses, including SARS and Influenza. The current outbreak of coronavirus is the strain Covid-19.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) coronaviruses are zoonotic meaning they can be transmitted between animals and humans.
Common symptoms of Covid-19 include:
- Respiratory symptoms
- Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
People over 65 years old and those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes or other conditions are considered to be significantly more vulnerable to this infection and can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and unfortunately, even death.
How does coronavirus (Covid-19) cause death?
If you are unlucky enough to catch the virus, hopefully you are one of those who experiences milder symptoms that reside only in the upper respiratory tract (that is above the trachea/windpipe) with symptoms such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, fever or dry cough.
But for those with underlying health conditions or are over 65 years of age, the situation can worsen considerably. Covid-19 can invade the cells of your lower respiratory tract (bronchi and alveoli) causing severe difficulty breathing. Lungs efficiency can become hindered, starving the body of oxygen which can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia happens when the alveoli part of your lungs become inflamed and fill with pus and fluids.
Once Covid-19 reaches the lungs, the immune system goes into overdrive, doing more harm than good because the root invader may not even be found, and the influx of cells to the lungs could damage existing respiratory cells. Not to mention, as the immune system is fighting the infection, other bacteria is able to invade the body causing a secondary infection that your immune system can’t fight as it is still fighting the first infection.
Because of this, if lung damage becomes extensive and can no longer exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, the body goes into respiratory failure. At this point, a ventilator is needed to help the patient breathe as they can no longer breathe on their own.
Worst still, Covid-19 can affect you yet another way. In a bid to eradicate the infection, the immune system could start sending chemicals and cells all over the body not just to the respiratory tract, which could inevitably damage many more cells in the body than just in the respiratory tract. In this case, blood pressure drops and organs begin to fail.
What can I do to prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19)?
As the infection has never been seen before, recommendations on how to prevent infection spread remain the best advice. These recommendations, according to WHO, include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and to avoid touching your face. It is also recommended to thoroughly cook meat and eggs. Previous advice was to avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing but since case numbers are increasing rapidly most large cities are encouraging the avoidance of close contact (one meter or three feet) with people and more specifically self-isolation where possible.
Can I avoid catching coronavirus (Covid-19)?
It is unknown if you can avoid catching it. From what is known, it is highly contagious and easily passed from person to person. The best thing to do is remain vigilant with your own hand hygiene as well as your household’s family members (especially children who may be carriers or asymptomatic) and in being vigilant with your own hygiene, this should help prevent spread.
It is important in this uncertain time to not ‘react’ but act accordingly. Panic is not helpful. Neither is being dismissive of the infections existence. Though most cases do not result in death (in fact, globally, about 3.4% of cases have died), until a vaccine is created, preventing the spread is all we can do to help protect ourselves and our loved ones. So, stay vigilant with hand hygiene and if you feel you may have mild upper respiratory tract symptoms, self-isolate.