Updated: Jan 19
By Joanne Lee
It started off as a minor outbreak in Wuhan, China.
There were the warning signs:
Reports of mysterious SARS-like symptoms, the shutdown and quarantine of Wuhan city, and the rapid global spread of this unusual disease.
You’ve heard of it. The pandemic that’s been swarming the headlines of your daily news source, causing increasing global concern for the past couple of months. In the midst of this international crisis, you’ve probably experienced minor to major changes in your everyday life which signify the growing widespread alarm.
But don’t panic. Spare a minute or two to learn about this unprecedented disease.
COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2, is a specific strain of the coronavirus family which appears to have originally been a disease affecting only bats. But due to a series of mutations, the virus appears to have adapted to infect humans.
The nomenclature of the coronavirus family originates from the crown like appendages protruding from the center. These protuberances allow the virus to “stick” to the surface of different animal cells, permitting the virus to enter and infect the species at hand. The strain that affected bats would not affect humans; but through a succession of chance alterations and mutations, the virus was able to survive and reproduce a strong enough strain that would cause the currently ongoing epidemic.
Symptoms, which can appear within two weeks after exposure to the disease, can include having a cough, shortness of breath, and a fever. Other less common symptoms that have been reported include—but are not limited to—having headaches, muscle aches, and a sore throat.
The virus is typically transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets which are generated through coughing or sneezing. Although the statistics are constantly shifting, 80% of cases—at the time I am writing this article—are mild and recoverable at home. Most people who display symptoms will recover with rest and care. Cases that become more severe, however, will typically experience or develop other conditions such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, or organ failure.
Currently, the virus appears to affect citizens primarily within the age of 20-79. That does not mean, however, that children are less susceptible to becoming infected by the disease. As indicated by the words of Dr. John Brooks (who works at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention), it is likely that cases with children are not reported due to “decreased likelihood that children were present for clinical care,” or a lack of recognition that sick children have COVID-19. Practice preventative measures, such as maintaining hygiene, to keep both yourself and your children safe from potential illness.
The current methods of diagnosing COVID-19 is through molecular recognition tests, specifically rRT-PCR, and serology testing. rRT-PCR, or real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, analyzes a sample of the body which contains nucleic data, such as saliva or snot, and detects the genetic expression present, which is then compared to a published genetic sequence of the virus. Serology testing detects antibody production of the body’s immune system against potential presence of the virus, but because antibodies remain in the body long after the virus has been eliminated, PCR testing is more regularly used. Lately, however, recent investigations have taken place targeting increased use of serology testing for both diversity of the diagnosis for COVID-19 and to detect the widespread impact of COVID-19.
Educate Yourself and Your Children
Inform both yourself and your children of the changes that will occur which are necessary for one’s safety, specifically social distancing, the series of actions coordinated by local officials to reduce the infectious nature of a disease. Social distancing regulates large congregations of people in a variety of locations, such as home, work, or schools. Some restrictions include maintaining a certain distance from family members at home, working remotely, and closing schools to avoid close contact with individuals. These changes can be swift and difficult to adjust to, so it is crucial that people of all ages are adequately informed and can understand the importance of these shifts in their everyday lives.
What You Can Do:
Know the symptoms of coronavirus and call a health care provider immediately if you find yourself coughing, short of breath, or have a fever. (Only those who display signs of illness should wear a mask.) Practice social distancing and self-quarantine, and encourage others to do the same. Wash your hands frequently with soap, and keep hands away from your face.
We can work together to slow the speed of the contagious COVID-19 cases—we can all work together to “flatten the curve”; the U.S. has a limited amount of available resources and facilities at hand. Practicing the above mentioned procedures (washing hands, social distancing) will help to ease the number of patients that are sent to occupy hospitals and help to “flatten the curve,” or reduce the rate at which the disease is affecting others.
In this unprecedented period, it is vital that we remain as healthy, knowledgeable, and calm as possible. Maintain individual hygiene and practice social distancing, but don't forget to keep yourself occupied in your free time. Read books, spend time with family, and exercise. Don't let the virus take everything away from you.
For reliable and updated information on COVID-19, visit the CDC, WHO, and JHU websites.
For the most updated information on the current statistics (cases per country, deaths, recoveries, etc):
For live updates of the coronavirus pandemic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgylp3Td1Bw