What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus coming out of China.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).
At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments.
The COVID-19 virus affects different people in different ways. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and most infected people will develop mild to moderate symptoms and recover without requiring special treatment. People who have underlying medical conditions and those over 60 years old have a higher risk of developing severe disease and death.
Common symptoms include:
- dry cough.
Other symptoms include:
- shortness of breath
- aches and pains
- sore throat
- and very few people will report diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose.
People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.
People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should call their doctor and seek medical attention.
How contagious is the coronavirus?
The transmission rate is relatively high. Early research has estimated that one person who has it can spread it to between 2 and 2.5 others. One study found that the rate was higher, with one case spreading to between 4.7 and 6.6 other people. By comparison, one person who has the seasonal flu will pass it to between 1.1 and 2.3 others.
How does Coronavirus Spread?
SARS-CoV-2, the virus, mainly spreads from person to person.
Most of the time, it spreads when a sick person coughs or sneezes. They can spray droplets as far as 6 feet away. If you breathe them in or swallow them, the virus can get into your body. Some people who have the virus don’t have symptoms, but they can still spread the virus.
You can also get the virus from touching a surface or object the virus is on, then touching your mouth, nose, or possibly your eyes. Most viruses can live for several hours on a surface that they land on. A study shows that SARS-CoV-2 can last for several hours on various types of surfaces:
- Copper: 4 hours
- Cardboard: up to 24 hours
- Plastic or stainless steel: 2 to 3 days
That’s why it’s important to disinfect surfaces to get rid of the virus.
To prevent infection and to slow transmission of COVID-19, do the following:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
- Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Stay home if you feel unwell.
- Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
- Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.
Have there been other serious coronavirus outbreaks in the past?
Coronaviruses have led to two serious outbreaks:
- Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). About 858 people have died from MERS, which first appeared in Saudi Arabia and then in other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. In April 2014, the first American was hospitalized for MERS in Indiana, and another case was reported in Florida. Both had just returned from Saudi Arabia. In May 2015, there was an outbreak of MERS in South Korea, which was the largest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome ( SARS ). In 2003, 774 people died from an outbreak. As of 2015, there were no further reports of cases of SARS.
How can you help in stopping the spread of the coronavirus?
Because the virus spreads from person to person, it’s important to limit your contact with other people as much as possible.
Some people work in “essential businesses” that are vital to daily life, such as health care, law enforcement, and public utilities. Everyone else should stay home as much as you can. You might hear officials use these terms when they talk about staying home:
- Social distancing or physical distancing: keeping space between yourself and other people when you have to go out
- Quarantine: keeping someone home and separated from other people if they might have been exposed to the virus
- Isolation: keeping sick people away from healthy people, including using a separate “sick” bedroom and bathroom when possible
Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)