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Monday, January 18, 2021

COVID-19: HOW TO KEEP SAFE DURING THIS GLOBAL CRISIS (Series 1)

“…a project in Italy has also found many symptomless cases (patients who display no symptoms of disease). When everybody was tested in a town called Vò, Italy, one of the hardest hit in the country, 60% of people who tested positive were found to have no symptoms (therefore, it is important to practice strict hygiene measures)…”

The Covid-19 outbreak is undeniably one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. The UK recorded its first confirmed case of acute respiratory infection due to Covid-19 in January 2020.

This outbreak has changed our lives dramatically. Schools are shut across the country (UK), most businesses have closed their doors and people have been told to stay at home to prevent further spread of virus.

What is Covid-19?

At the end of December 2019, Chinese public health authorities reported several cases of an acute respiratory illness in Wuhan City, Hubei province. It was soon identified that this is caused by a novel coronavirus called Covid-19. It is related to the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003. The Covid-19 virus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not previously been identified in humans.

Coronavirus can be transmitted to people from animals. Many of the early cases of Covid-19 were traced back to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan in China. The virus is thought to have come from bats, possibly via an intermediary animal.

Covid-19 spread to several countries around the world in a short span of time. Italy, Spain and China are at top of the list, where several thousands of people lost their lives due to the disease. WHO (World Health Organization) confirmed the outbreak as a pandemic on 11 March 2020 (which means that multiple countries are seeing sustained transmission between people of an outbreak causing disease or death).

Coronavirus has so far (31 March) affected more than 178 countries across the world and caused loss of more than 37,000 lives. There are more than 780,000 confirmed cases across the world (BBC News website, accessed 31 March)

In the UK currently, 22,141 cases have been identified (GOV UK website, accessed 30 March) i.e. tested positive, though the actual number affected is estimated to be much larger. Unfortunately, 1,408 patients in the UK have died of this disease (GOV UK website, accessed 29 March)

The spread of Covid-19

Covid-19 is largely spread via (respiratory) droplets in the air. These droplets are typically expelled when a person infected with the illness coughs or sneezes.

These droplets quickly fall on surfaces as they are too heavy to hang in the air (this is considered to be due to the fact that coronavirus particles are surrounded by a fatty layer). Some lighter particles may remain suspended in the air.

It is suggested that a person can become infected by inhaling the virus if in close proximity of an infected person. Also, if you touch the contaminated surfaces and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, it may cause infection.

Hence, the importance of washing hands with water and soap frequently can be understood. Coronavirus has also been detected in blood, faeces (stools) and urine of an infected person.

According to the New Scientist Journal, a project in Italy has also found many symptomless cases (patients who display no symptoms of disease). When everybody was tested in a town called Vò, Italy, one of the hardest hit in the country, 60% of people who tested positive were found to have no symptoms (therefore, it is important to practice strict hygiene measures).

You may have heard of “viral load”, which relates to the number of viral particles being carried by an infected individual and shed into their environment. If an infected person has a high viral load, they are more likely to infect other people because they may be shedding more virus particles.

In the case of Covid-19, it is not yet confirmed if a higher viral load can lead to more severe symptoms, however this may be a possibility.

Signs and symptoms of Covid 19

Signs and symptoms include:

– Fever

– Cough (new cough)

– Tiredness

– Runny nose

– Sore throat

– Shortness of breath or wheezing

– Chest pains

– Nasal congestion

– Body aches and pains

In the majority of patients affected by the illness, symptoms are mild (e.g. just a runny nose or a sore throat or a little cough) or they may have flu-like illness. Having said that, some patients may experience more significant symptoms, including shortness of breath or chest tightness/pain etc.

Some patients with Covid-19 may also experience:

– Loss of smell

– Loss of taste

– Loose stools

– Nausea/vomiting

It is important to remember that in those patients where the illness may not present itself with any symptoms, they are still infectious and can still spread the virus.

The question is, how do patients who have no symptoms – no cough or sneeze – spread this infection?

These persons can spread the disease by spitting, touching their mouths or noses and then a surface or possibly talking or with an occasional cough or sneeze. This is the reason why social isolation and hand washing is so important to prevent spread of disease as these patients with no symptoms may spread the disease unknowingly.

…to be continued…

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