COVID-19 - Frequently Asked Questions
What is covid-19?
“COVID-19” is a disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The name originated from the unofficial “Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019”. The virus causing COVID-19 is genetically classified as “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” (SARS-CoV-2). This can cause confusion at first, but viruses are often known for the diseases they cause, such as HIV & AIDS, for example.
What are the symptoms?
The severity of symptoms often vary by host, but can often include a combination of dry cough, shortness of breath and fever. In some cases, the host can be asymptomatic, meaning they show no symptoms at all. A runny nose, sore throat, and sneezing are most likely due to a common cold, as only rare cases of COVID-19 exhibit these symptoms.
Why is it dangerous for humans?
COVID-19 is roughly three times as contagious as the annual flu, making it very easy to spread and infect others. Although an estimated 80% of cases are mild, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions may have weakened immune systems and therefore have a more difficult time battling the virus. A very infectious contagion like this, if not curbed and slowed down, can overwhelm the health care infrastructure of a given country or region and cause shortages of resources such as:
- hospital beds
- breathing apparatuses
- healthcare workers
It might result in a lowered quality of care for those in critical condition, needing medical assistance.
Can people without symptoms spread Covid-19?
Simply put, yes. A person may show absolutely no signs of carrying the virus and go on to infect numerous people who become ill. The lack of any visible indicators from someone who is asymptomatic (carrying the virus but showing no signs of it) is the reason why this virus has become so difficult to contain. This is precisely why social distancing, isolation and in some cases city lockdowns have become essential to attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
What can I do to help limit the spread of the virus?
Because the virus is respiratory, it can be spread through airborne and surface means, such as coughing either in someone else’s direction or onto your hand then by touching a surface with that same hand. Depending on the climate and conditions, the virus can stay alive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so coughing into your elbow is encouraged, as well as washing your hands thoroughly and often. In addition, disinfecting commonly touched items and surfaces would be a great way to prevent virus spreading. It sounds simple, but excellent hygiene, handwashing, and cleanliness of common surfaces are the best defense against the spread of the virus. The world is also being encouraged to practice “social distancing”, which limits the interactions one may have with others. This includes:
- working from home
- keeping a minimum 6-foot distance between those you do need to see in person
- generally limiting the face-to-face social interactions we have on a daily basis.
Is there a vaccine?
Currently, there is no vaccination for COVID-19. Governments worldwide are working on developing a cure for the virus, but the research and development of such vaccinations take time and trials in order to make them safe and effective. The most recent reports suggest the world is still at least several months away from having a vaccination.
Why is the incubation period 14 days?
An incubation period is a time between contracting a virus and the first symptoms arising. 14 days is the maximum incubation period for COVID-19, this figure comes from empirical data that has been gathered from those who have contracted the virus. Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. However, knowing the maximum incubation period allows us to enforce effective quarantining that helps to slow the rate of infection in our communities.
Once I’ve had it, can I get infected again?
Most viruses result in a reward for immunity against being reinfected with the virus after you have already contracted and initially recovered from the virus. While most researchers and immunologists believe this is the case with COVID-19, it is still early to tell if that immunity is existent and how long it lasts for. If and when a vaccination is discovered, the theory of immunity from reinfection of the virus will likely and hopefully be confirmed.
What is the difference between an epidemic and a pandemic?
Simply put, an epidemic is a breakout of a disease in a specific region, country or part of the world, whereas a pandemic is the global spread of a disease. For example, COVID-19 originated as an epidemic while it was still only in Wuhan, China. Now that it has spread globally, it is classified as a pandemic.
What is R0?
R0 is used by scientists to identify how contagious a particular virus is. It is worth noting that the R0 number depends on multiple factors and naturally changes over the course of time. If for example a virus is highly infectious and has only recently found its way into a susceptible community, it will have a high R0. However, over time, as immunity is built up due to exposure, vaccinations become available and social measures such as isolation are put into place the R0 will drop. When the number is below 1 the virus is seen to be declining, above 1 increasing. Currently, the average R0 for COVID-19 is 3.28.
Who is at the greatest risk?
The elderly and those with weakened immune systems due to pre-existing health conditions are most at risk. Notably, those with
- heart disease
- respiratory problems
- auto-immune disease
and other long-term health issues are particularly at a higher risk of critical condition or death due to COVID-19.
An analysis of the first 44,300 infected in China shows a sharp increase in mortality among people over 60 years of age and about 15% among people over 80. In most cases, the disease is mild: more than 80% of patients recover without serious complaints.
According to Chinese data collected on 72,314 patients, the mortality rate was 2.3%. According to more recent data, the indicator increased to 4%. As of today, 4.3% of those infected outsides of China died.
How long does the recovery take?
On average, people recover in two weeks. With a severe course of the disease, critical cases and complications, recovery can take up to 3-6 weeks. According to initial data, a serious or critical condition can occur within one week after infection, death can occur in 2-8 weeks. As of today, about 400,000 people have become ill in the world since the epidemic began and 100,000 had already recovered.
When will the pandemic end?
A clear ending is not yet directly in sight; however, professionals are anticipating that most of 2020 will be spent fighting this battle with COVID-19 worldwide. Much of that depends on how serious individual countries are with helping limit the spread of the virus and how much government support that the country is receiving in its efforts. It also, of course, depends on when the vaccination will be discovered, tested, and ultimately administered worldwide.
However, coronavirus has two ways to spread – fast and slow. It all depends on how world communities will strive to handle it. A fast-spreading pandemic occurs when a large number of people get sick simultaneously. If there are too many infected people, the health institutes all over the world will not be able to treat everyone due to lack of resources (medical staff and equipment). People might die without receiving proper treatment and doctors might become infected.
To avoid this, we need to do everything possible to slow down the pandemic. It means, people need to change their habits for some time to create some kind of “social vaccine”, which means not to be infected and not to infect others. Regularly wash your hands, practice social distancing, and if possible, stay at home.
In addition, regularly check on updates from the World Health Organization, which is the United Nations governing body on health and is the primary source for information. You can visit their website at www.who.int for the most up-to-date and accurate data on the global health response to COVID-19.