The virus has made a peak in Italy, and has now spread to all European countries. But what does that mean to you? We have gathered the 5 most important facts about Coronavirus (covid-19).
1. How dangerous is coronavirus?
Coronavirus is extremely contagious, but not particularly deadly.
3.4% of those who get coronavirus die from it, the World Health Organization estimates . This is more than for regular seasonal influenza, but at the same time fewer than for other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS, where mortality is respectively. 34% and 10%.
Over 96% of the corona infected become healthy again. Least. The WHO mortality estimate is based on the number of confirmed sick and dead. The many mild cases of the disease, which are not diagnosed and reported, do not count, and a large number of unknown infected – the so-called dark number – can therefore reduce the real mortality rate.
Since December 2019, coronavirus has cost around 8,000 people worldwide.
Although coronavirus is not particularly deadly in itself, it infects more than twice as easily as, for example, the common flu and therefore reaches many people. It poses a danger.
For the more infected, the more deaths. Especially among the special risk groups – the elderly and people with pre-existing health problems – and especially if very many become seriously ill at once. It can overload the health care system and exceed the capacity of hospitals, so not all critical cases can receive the necessary treatment.
At worst, it can also affect non-infected citizens – for example, pregnant women or people in long-term care – because the hospital services are under pressure from critical corona patients.
Big difference between age steps
The largest coronavirus study to date, conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates large fluctuations in mortality among various age groups:
- 10-39 years: 0.2% mortality
- 40-49 years: 0.4% mortality
- 50-59 years: 1.3% mortality
- 60-69 years: 3.6% mortality
- 70-79 years: 8% mortality
- +80 years: 14.8% mortality
Fortunately, WHO studies also show that 80% of all sufferers show mild symptoms of the virus , and only in the worst cases – primarily among the elderly and people with, for example, high blood pressure and diabetes is there a risk of developing pneumonia, respiratory distress and organ failure, which can lead to deaths.
However, in order for the coronavirus to go seriously and become dangerous for really large sections of the population, it must mutate into a version that is both highly contagious and very deadly.
2. Can the coronavirus be treated?
If the symptoms are limited to cough, fever and fatigue, the virus is treated as a normal cold. If the infected person gets pneumonia, hospitalization may be necessary.
Namely, the pneumonia that the virus can cause is viral and not bacterial. Therefore, antibiotics do not work.
So far, about 82,000 infected have recovered from the disease, estimates Johns Hopkins University .
3. What are the symptoms?
Usually the course of the disease starts with a fever followed by a dry cough.
The infected person can then experience pronounced fatigue, muscle pain, headaches and breathing problems – just like with a bad flu. In severe cases, the disease can also develop into pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome and organ failure.
According to the World Health Organization, the symptoms are as follows:
- 80% experience mild symptoms
- 14% experience severe symptoms
- 6% experience critical symptoms
In 97.5% of cases, the developing symptoms develop within 11.5 days , a recent study shows . Therefore, the quarantine period for corona-infected or citizens who have stayed in risk zones is usually 14 days.
It takes an average of five days, from being infected to becoming ill – the so-called incubation time – but it can potentially last up to 14 days.
4. How should I protect myself from infection?
Coronavirus has been found to be about twice as contagious as a regular flu virus.
Airborne saliva particles can be transmitted from person to person through, for example, coughing and sneezing, but can actually be carried up to three meters through the air during a regular conversation.
Therefore, many face masks wear in the worst affected areas, but WHO recommends it only to those already infected or caring for others.
The masks are only effective against larger mucus droplets in the air, while smaller virus particles – the so-called aerosols – can easily pass through the membrane. Coronavirus can also penetrate through the mucous membranes of the eyes, even if you wear a mask.
Virus particles attack the respiratory tract
Virus particles from an infectious agent can hang in the air, and they infect before the outbreak of the disease in the body.
The virus particles leave the diseased body in a large group to increase the chance of infection.
The particles travel in saliva droplets that can fly more than one meter.
The virus arrives in the respiratory tract of a new victim, where it propagates in the cells of the mucosa. The risk of disease increases with the number of particles.
The virus can also spread through indirect contact via saliva or snot on the hands, and WHO recommends that we take the following precautions at home:
- Wash hands frequently and use disinfectant hand sprays.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth as virus particles can be transferred to your vulnerable mucous membranes.
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing.
- Keep at least 1 meter distance from people who sneeze, cough or have a fever.
- Stay home if you’re feeling sick.
- If you experience symptoms of coronavirus, contact your doctor on the phone.
As the coronavirus infects between people and the risk is greater, the closer you stay, it is also a good idea to keep away from others in public transport or to avoid larger assemblies altogether. In addition, one should refrain from traveling to risk areas .
5. What is happening now?
WHO has declared the coronavirus a pandemic.
This means that the virus is now spreading beyond the expected , as it is said , and is beginning to spread between people in communities in many parts of the world.
The WHO has made the decision after the virus cases have been 13-fold outside China over the past two weeks.
The new categorization of the coronavirus outbreak does not mean that the WHO has changed their threat assessment or their recommendations on what individual countries and individuals need to do to counter the infection.
Basically, the authorities’ actions can be divided into two stages:
- Contain the virus: This is about detecting and isolating those who come home with the infection from other countries. However, the strategy will not make sense as the coronavirus begins to spread internally in the country. Then you will shift your focus from the outside carriers to those affected at home.
- Delay the spread of the virus : Once the virus has become infected in a larger part of the population and has begun to spread among citizens locally, the authorities will try to delay the spread so that hospitals can keep up. The health care system will avoid having to treat a large number of seriously ill at once – with the risk of exceeding the hospital capacity, so that not everyone can receive the necessary treatment. The tools in this phase are called the banning of larger assemblies, the closure of, for example, schools and public institutions and, ultimately, the closure of the entire country.
… But doesn’t the spring sun bring hope?
More experts – including the head of the United States National Center for Disease Control, Dr. Nancy Messonier – has expressed hope that the coronavirus – like many other influenza and cold viruses – will subside in the spring and summer months.
First of all, during the warm part of the year, humans do not stay as close together indoors as in winter, and in addition, virus particles usually do not survive for nearly as long on surfaces as the Sun shines because UV rays break them down.
But since scientists do not know how exactly coronavirus behaves in the hot season, they cannot say anything with certainty. For example, the related coronavirus MERS was not seasonally dependent. In addition, the researchers point out that the southern hemisphere has colder months – and that a possible effect will therefore not be global.
Finally, it should be borne in mind that even though the spread of coronavirus should decrease over the summer in the Northern Hemisphere – it can easily increase again as winter 2020-21 sets in.