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COVID-19: The Rundown

In recent months, the world has begun to experience a drastic change in terms of health, safety and security as a novel coronavirus (coronaviruses are essentially a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds) was introduced in Wuhan, China during December of 2019 which later on was found to have significantly spread throughout other countries, increasing at a rapid rate.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), previously known by its provisional name, 2019 Novel Coronavirus, and commonly referred to as the COVID-19 virus is genetically similar to one of the ‘older’ viruses called SARS; however, SARS is said to have been more fatal, but not as infectious as COVID-19.

While COVID-19 is in fact highly infectious, the recovery rate from this virus is significantly higher than that of its mortality rate. Cases infected with this virus range between milder to more fatal cases, some cases are even found to be asymptomatic, yet they test positive for this novel coronavirus. While, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), how the virus affects people is still not entirely known, it is stated that “older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others”. So, it may be safe to assume that it all directly correlates with one’s health and how effective their immune system happens to be.

As of the 18th of March, 2020, (per WHO’s situation reports) the number of cases announced and confirmed globally is 191,127 of which the majority of that number is concentrated in the Western Pacific Region with 91,845 confirmed cases and 74,760 confirmed cases in the European Region. The accumulative of the confirmed cases are found to be distributed among at least 159 countries, areas or territories.

On the 11th of March, during a media-briefing regarding the virus, the WHO Director-General stated as follows, “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.” He continued following this statement, “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.” A pandemic is essentially a disease epidemic that has spread across a large region, throughout either multiple continents or worldwide.

WHO’s Director-General characterized COVID-19 as the first pandemic to have been caused by a coronavirus while still stating that they had never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time. While this virus pandemic is increasing at a fast rate, hopes of having it contained and controlled are still present as countless of countries have begun to take extreme measures such as quarantines, self-isolations and continuous testing among the necessary measures of disinfecting the streets of infected towns and cities.

When it comes to how the virus would present itself, common signs of infection may include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. While in more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard precautions to be taken more seriously at the time of this infection regardless of being quarantined, self-isolated or not, is to practice “social-distancing” which is essentially keeping a respective distance between one’s self and others while practicing regular hand washing and sanitizing and covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Additional precautions advised as the virus has grown to be more distributed among the world is to limit direct contact with surfaces since the virus tends to survive for a considerably long period of time once present.

The origination of COVID-19 has not been plainly stated but with several discussions being put up in the air, people have begun to suspect it originating from bats (as one of the most predicted causes amongst others) as a group of bat coronaviruses had been reported including Tylonycteris bat coronavirus HKU4 (BtCoV-HKU4) in Tylonycteris bats and Pipistrellus bat coronavirus HKU5 (BtCoV-HKU5) in Pipistrellus bats in China including two other bat coronaviruses where one was found in Spain while the other in the Netherlands.

It is important to keep in mind that viruses similar to that of COVID-19 may be circulating among several animals. Genetically speaking, there are given similarities between COVID-19 and bat SARS-like coronaviruses; however, initial analyses seem to have indicated that Malayan pangolins – a certain type of mammals – which are illegally imported into Guangdong province contain a coronavirus that is similar to COVID-19. A type of bat virus, RaTG13, remains to be the closest relative to COVID-19 across the whole genome; regardless of that, the extent of similarities that COVID-19 and the Malayan pangolin coronavirus can’t be entirely ignored.

All parties currently in question when it comes to being the cause of the virus are only furthering the confusion. What can be taken from what was aforementioned in regards to bat and Malayan pangolin coronavirus similarities to that of the COVID-19 is that either sources could have been the main cause of the transmission of the COVID-19 virus or one of the animals could have acted as a medium between the other animal and humans.

When the virus first appeared, rumors went around that the COVID-19 vaccine would be ready for mass production by mid next year. Several medical centers and institutions are said to be working on potential vaccines, with some even have gone as far as testing on animals. On Monday, the 16th of March, having enrolled 45 healthy adult volunteers aged 18 to 55, the trial will take approximately 6 weeks. The first participant has received the investigational vaccine, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has set out a Phase I clinical trial evaluating an investigational vaccine designed to protect against COVID-19 at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) in Seattle, Washington.

During this tedious period of time, everyone should be extra cautious of their own health and any possible changes that may occur in regards to it – those with pre-existing conditions or have a weaker immune system should be more cautious. If you feel as if you may have it, you should be careful to self-isolate as well as contact a Physician to lead you to the right direction instead of potentially endangering yourself as well as others by going to a medical center or a hospital with no notice beforehand.

No matter how long this matter will proceed and no matter how heavy it has only seemed to be, it’s important that we try our best in keeping the peace and keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe because surely, this too will pass.

References:

Andersen, K. G., Rambaut, A., Lipkin, W. I., Holmes, E. C., & Garry, R. F. (2020). The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nature Medicine. doi:10.1038/s41591-020-0820-9

Hu, B., Ge, X., Wang, L., & Shi, Z. (2015). Bat origin of human coronaviruses. Virology Journal, 12(1). doi:10.1186/s12985-015-0422-1

NIH clinical trial of investigational vaccine for COVID-19 … (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-clinical-trial-investigational-vaccine-covid-19-begins

Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). Retrieved 19 March 2020, from https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200318-sitrep-58-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=20876712_2

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