Everything you need to know about Coronaviruses

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Coronaviruses are an extensive family of viruses that can cause minor illnesses such as the common cold, and serious diseases such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), and more recently the newly identified coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, this new virus was officially named SARS-CoV-2, and the official name of the disease caused by the new virus is ” COVID-19 ” according to the World Health Organization.

Coronaviruses affect both humans and animals, including camels, cats, and bats. Animal-to-human transmission is rare, but when it occurs, the virus can evolve and then continue with human-to-human transmission. Coronaviruses are named after the crown-shaped tips on their surface. The common human coronaviruses that most people contract at some point in their lives include the following types:

  • 229E (coronavirus alpha)
  • NL63 (coronavirus alpha)
  • OC43 (beta coronavirus)
  • HKU1 (beta coronavirus)

Epidemic of coronavirus disease COVID-19 in Wuhan City, China.

Since last December, more than 127 thousand cases of the infection called COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, have been reported, of which more than 80 thousand have been reported in China and thousands of infected people have been detected in dozens of countries among The 12,000 in Italy, 10,000 in Iran, 7,000 cases in South Korea, 2,277 in Spain, 639 in Japan, 2,284 in France, 1,323 in the United States, 2,078 in Germany, 459 in the United Kingdom.

In Latin America at the moment there are dozens of confirmed cases of COVID-19, 52 in Brazil, 17 in Ecuador, 23 in Chile, 19 in Argentina, 22 in Costa Rica, 15 in Peru, 11 in Panama, 12 in Mexico, 5 in Dominican Republic, 5 in Paraguay, 9 in Colombia, 3 in Cuba, 2 in Bolivia and 2 in Honduras.

Of the more than 127,000 cases worldwide, thousands of people are in serious condition and more than 4,718 deaths have been reported. About one in four cases are estimated to be severe. Chinese Health Minister revealed that people can spread the virus before they have symptoms, making the virus even more dangerous to public health.

Symptoms of coronavirus infection

Coronavirus infections can cause mild to moderate symptoms of acute respiratory infection similar to the common cold and the flu. The most frequent signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection are:

  • High fever
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Muscle pains
  • Breathing difficulty 

These symptoms can progress to serious illness such as pneumonia whose symptoms include: shortness of breath, feeling of tightness in the chest, and chest pain. 

It is important to note that in cases of COVID-19 fever may not be present in very young patients, very old patients, immunosuppressed patients, or those taking fever-reducing medications. 

How is the human coronavirus transmitted?

The human coronavirus virus is transmitted from person to person in various ways. Through the air when coughing or sneezing and droplets of respiratory secretions are expelled. Shaking hands or touching the sick person. By touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus and then bringing your hands to your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Who is at risk?

The COVID-19 infection is very dangerous for people who have a weakened immune system due to underlying diseases (diabetes, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, etc.), people undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs; older adults are also at risk, especially those with chronic diseases such as those mentioned above. 

What is the population susceptible to becoming ill with the coronavirus COVID-19?

The entire population can become ill with the new coronavirus. COVID-19 infection is a new disease, and therefore people do not have antibodies to protect them against this type of virus. However, in a study carried out with information on 44,672 cases presented in China, it was observed that few cases have occurred in children and young people under the age of 19 (2.1%), 58.6% of the cases are adults aged 30 to 59 years and 31.2% of cases occurred in those over 60 years.

Incubation period of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus

The incubation period is the time interval between infection with the virus and the appearance of the first symptoms or signs of the disease. For the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus first identified in China in 2019 and causing COVID-19 disease, the incubation period is 2 to 14 days and the virus can be transmitted person-to-person during this period in which the patient has no symptoms. 

How is the diagnosis of coronavirus disease made?

To make the diagnosis, the person’s symptoms and the history of travel in the last 14 days to an area where the disease is spreading are taken into account. For the definitive diagnosis, laboratory tests are done to detect the presence of the virus in the sick person. 

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

The main symptoms of a Covid-19 infection are very similar to those of the common flu. Among the most prominent signs we find:

  • Fever
  • Cough (sometimes with respiratory secretions)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache General
  • Fatigue

The diagnosis of the disease goes beyond these symptoms. Coronavirus infection, however, can only be confirmed by specific tests. For example, by means of tests of ARN with which the genetic information of the virus is analyzed and it is verified if it belongs to the family of pathogens responsible for this new outbreak. Or, as recent studies suggest, thanks to the use of CT scans capable of detecting with greater precision the incidence of lung infections such as those caused by the coronavirus.

How is the new coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?

In the same way that happens with the common flu, this new coronavirus is spread through the air or through human contact. Coughs or sneezes, for example, stand out as the main routes of transmission of the pathogen. The infection was spread during its incubation phase of the disease, while the infected person has still not yet developed the characteristic symptoms of pneumonia, such as fever. For this reason, experts suggest taking more parameters into account when confirming or ruling out a suspicious case. It has also been ruled out that the disease is transmitted from animals to humans, although the outbreak is estimated to have originated from a seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

How is it different from the flu?

Both the Chinese coronavirus and the common flu cause acute infectious diseases of the respiratory tract that are easily spread from person to person. The medical picture of both viruses is similar. This similarity makes it difficult to diagnose the infection without testing.

What to do about a suspicious case?

The action in a suspicious case is different depending on whether the person has been in risk areas, has maintained contact with a person infected or has symptoms. The most convenient thing is to call the telephone number that each autonomous community has enabled to report on the coronavirus, explain personal circumstances and attend to the instructions received.

What happens if I have the virus? 

If the symptoms are mild, Health services have advised the isolation at home and take extreme hygiene measures to avoid infecting more people.

If symptoms are severe, authorities recommend hospital admission. In the case of hospital quarantine, it is the health professionals themselves who monitor that the action protocol is correct. Isolated patients in their homes also receive the pertinent instructions on the measures to adopt at home.

Coronavirus treatment 

So, what is the treatment for coronavirus? There is no specific antiviral medicine for the coronavirus infection treatment, nor for the new disease COVID-19.  This is because they are caused by a virus, antibiotics are not useful for treating this disease. Antivirals used to treat influenza are also not helpful in these cases. Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019 should be treated for patients and supportive treatment should be provided to maintain the function of vital organs. 

Prevention of coronavirus disease COVID-19

Avoid close contact with people who show symptoms of acute respiratory infection such as fever, dry cough, fatigue, sneezing, and muscle aches. If you are sick and have symptoms compatible with the coronavirus COVID-2019, do not leave your home to avoid contaminating other people.

People with symptoms compatible with the coronavirus COVID-19 should wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose to protect other people from droplets contaminated by the virus when coughing or sneezing.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after having direct contact with sick people with or where symptoms of acute respiratory infection are found. If soap and water are not available, wash with a solution containing at least 60% alcohol. 

  • When coughing and sneezing, the mouth and nose should be covered with the arm (using the elbow crease) or with a disposable tissue – immediately throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with dirty hands. 
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that you touch frequently with a disinfectant cleaner or a cleaning pad. 
  • If you have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, seek medical attention on time and share a history of traveling abroad with your doctor.
  • “Close contact” should be understood to be within a range of 2 meters from the sick person, to remain within the room with the sick patient or to be in contact with the secretions of the sick person (eg when coughing or sneezing) without protective equipment.

Coronavirus vaccine

According to a report on coronavirus treatment 2020, there is no vaccine that protects against infection by any of the coronavirus types, including the new coronavirus COVID-19.

More info?

For more information visit the health services website in your region to get specific details that pertain to your city.

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