Last Updated on March 14, 2020 by Douglas C. Goldberg, MD
A new 2020 coronavirus raised huge public concern and need for greater awareness in order to protect oneself from potentially deadly disease. Below we’ll provide answers to the most asked general questions about coronavirus.
- What is Coronavirus?
- Where Did the Coronavirus Come From?
- How Does It Spread?
- What Are the Symptoms of the Disease?
- How to Detect (Diagnose) Coronavirus?
- Are There Treatment Methods? Can Antibiotics Be Used?
- Who Is More Likely to Get the Virus?
- Is Coronavirus a Pandemic or an Epidemic?
- Which Countries Have Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus?
- When Will Coronavirus Go Away?
Coronaviruses are a class of dangerous viruses that infect people & animals. The ‘corona’ (i.e. ‘crown’) in these viruses means tentacles that mimic the activity of other molecules and cause a reaction of receptors. This reaction leads to the penetration of the hazardous pathogen and its RNA into the cell.
The first case of human coronavirus was detected in 2002. Its causative agent — SARS-CoV, and this microorganism caused SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Then in 2015 there was an outbreak of a disease caused by another coronavirus called MERS-CoV (also known as camel flu).
The Wuhan virus, which triggered a new epidemic of deadly disease in the People’s Republic of China, which began in late December 2019, is called SARS-CoV-2, as it is 70 percent similar to SARS of the 1st type.
The first disease occasions are associated with the consumption of animal food in the Wuhan market of seafood and other exotic animals such as badger bats, wolf puppies and poisonous snakes. Some scientists have linked prepping / eating krait and cobra meat with human virus infection. This forced China to start fighting the black market for wild animals on the national scale (and the market in Wuhan was closed in early January 2020).
Then, Chinese scientists said the virus began earlier and SARS-2 hit the market from another place. Therefore, the exact sources are still unknown. There are conspiracy theories (that the agent was supposedly specially developed in the laboratory by humans), but they aren’t backed with sufficient evidence.
How Does It Spread?
The key way of transmission is airborne. When an ill or infected folk coughs, sneezes, or breathes, small viral particles spreads in the air. Infection is possible through a handshake / other direct contact or indirectly (if a person touches objects that the carrier of the virus previously touched). Fecal-oral transmission is also possible.
This is why it’s important to follow hygiene rules, wash hands thoroughly and use other methods of disinfection.
What Are the Symptoms of the Disease?
The incubation period lasts from 1 to 14 days.
According to some reports, it can last 21 days and even 28 days (but these are more likely exceptions). The main symptoms of the disease are similar to the flu: fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, acute malaise. More severe symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia (lung inflammation), severe acute respiratory syndrome,, kidney disorders. Some people have passed away of insufferable complications. The current fatality rate is about 3.4%. It varies depending on the person; as a rule, the older the patient, the bigger the risk to die.
The key diagnostic technique applied by doctors is the examination of nasopharynx smear or trachea fluid with the help of the molecular genetic method.
To get the results one needs to wait 2-4 hours.
The test is highly accurate. Blood tests are also indicative and can be used. In addition, a microscope is sometimes used to detect the virus, or the virus is grown in a special medium. But these methods are primarily used to meticulously examine the coronavirus rather than an ordinary check.
Are There Treatment Methods? Can Antibiotics Be Used?
There are no specific treatment methods at the moment, but already available antiviral remedies have showed therapeutic effect. Some of them, in particular, Kaletra (lopinavir plus ritonavir, brand name Lopimune) were successfully tested during previous outbreak of coronavirus (SARS 1) at the beginning of 2000s. In severe causes, therapy is aimed to restore normal breathing, maintain lung function and prevent other complications.
Despite viral nature of the disease, bacteria often come into picture so antibiotics are most often necessary for successful treatment.
Who Is More Likely to Get the Virus?
The categories of individuals who are most at risk of contracting the virus include those who suffers from heart disease, diabetes, lung illnesses, immunodeficiencies, and tumors.
Naturally, people who live or have visited the infection zone are at considerable risk of developing coronavirus disease.
Epidemic is the rapid spread of an infection to a large number of individuals, typically on the national level, or across several countries. Pandemic means worldwide spreading of infectious agents. The WHO called coronavirus an epidemic but then said that it ‘has a pandemic potential’. Some experts disagree with that but that’s the official position.
Coronavirus was emerged in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). As of early March 2020, dozens of countries have confirmed cases of perilous contamination, but in most of these countries cases are rare.
The most affected countries are (in descending order): China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan, Germany, France and Spain.
Read more about Coronavirus in Italy
Order Generic Kaletra – recommended to use for coronavirus disease by World Health Organization.
It’s hard to say for sure, but based on previous experience (SARS 1) epidemic might last several months. It’s a new disease, but its causative agent is similar to the ‘old’ SARS.
COVID-19 is not the worst disease in the history of humans. But it has already killed many people. We hope that the joint efforts of states, health organizations and people, as well as the right treatment methods, will lead to a complete victory over the new virus.