COVID-19 versus us.

If you type “covid-19” in Google search bar, you will see tons of information about this disgusting virus. There are real information (backed with scientific facts) but there are also myths and information based on “gut-feel”. But what do we really know about Covid-19? The fight is not over yet. Can we really win this pandemic crisis, just like the previous pandemics that happened hundreds of years ago? Will everything be back to normal?

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a short term for Coronavirus Disease 2019. It is an infectious viral particle causing deadly respiratory illnesses, structurally similar to the virus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (Remember this SARS virus?). Hence, COVID-19 is also known as SARS-CoV-2. It was announced worldwide in December 2019, although it was speculated to be existing even before the announcement. COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan City, in the province of Hubei, China, known as the epicenter of the outbreak. Lu et al. (2020) mentioned that this virus could have originated from bats, which were normally sold in the markets in Wuhan. Their team traced the phylogenetic origin (just imagine the family tree of the virus) and they found that COVID-19 is closely related to another virus from bats known as Betacoronavirus. Okay. This sounds so complicated. Let me try to cartoonify this.

Cartoonified phylogenetic analysis of COVID-19 (based from Lu et al. 2020)

Okay, it looks simple now. So here, you will see that the novel (meaning new) COVID-19 is closer to the “Bat-‘SARS-like’-CoV”, the species at the bottom of the so-called tree (it is technically called as phylogenetic tree/cladogram). So what does this mean? This data was generated by analysing the nucleic acid of the viruses. And it shows that COVID-19 is closely related to bat viruses. Scientists do this experiment so they can determine a lot of information from any organisms. For example, they would know from where this virus originated and how can this virus be treated. It is always better to know the subject of interest before dwelling into the more complicated part of the analysis (e.g., prevention, treatment of patients, containment and mitigation strategies).

Hmm, the next question would be, “How dangerous can this virus be?“. Okay, I have a favour to ask. Try searching for “COVID-19 cases in X country” (let X be equal to any country you wish to know). I am sure you would see the number of infected cases and most likely it won’t be less than 100 😦 . Sad but true. Almost all countries around the world suffer from this virus. This only shows that COVID-19 is a dangerous matter and must be taken seriously. The common symptoms are fever, dry cough and vomiting, although pneumonia is usually identified among all COVID-19 confirmed cases.

The transmission of this virus is also important to know. Fauci et al. (2020) wrote it more clearly when they mentioned that the reproductive number (R0) is 2.2, which means that on average, each infected person spreads the infection to an additional two persons. The mean incubation period (the time when the virus is active and symptoms are visible to the patient) is 5 days, ranging from 1 to 14 days and 95% of patients are likely to experience symptoms within 12.5 days of contact (He et al. 2020). This is why a 14-day quaratine is important.

The importance of quarantine has been emphasized in all countries. You would notice that most countries have announced enhanced community quarantine, restricted movement order and other terms, which basically mean “STAY AT HOME” to avoid contact with other individuals. The government is protecting its people by declaring quarantine. Just like this image below:

Transmission of COVID-19

In this image (though exaggerated), you will notice that if individuals will be together (physically) or in contact with each other, it will be easy for the virus to transfer from one host to another. How? One common example is through droplets (saliva, tears). The worst part is, we cannot see what we are avoiding. Remember what the R0 means? And remember the incubation period? If you do not know you are infected, and you keep on meeting people and going to crowded areas, there is a high chance that you might infect other people, or be infected instead. But, if you are aware of the risks, and you isolate yourself from others, things will be different. Look at this image below:

Effect of self-isolation / quarantine.

See the difference? Once you isolate yourself, you cannot anymore infect other people. The transmission will be stopped and the virus will be eradicated. This is why you hear in the news, they call the patients by number: patient 0,1,2,3……..200….1000…1500..nth. They have to do this to trace all the individuals who could have been exposed to the infected person. This is a difficult job for anyone. This is the reason why our government officials, WHO (World Health Organization) and other public health officials advise us to stay at home and practice social distancing.

As of today, 10th of April 2020 (4:00 PM Malaysia Time), there are 1,607,808 reported cases around the world, with 95,804 deaths. But the good thing is that we have 356,911 recovered cases. Still some great news! We can beat this virus as long as we remain as disciplined individuals. And please, remember the following good practices:

Good practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

I hope you learned something from this brief discussion. Stay safe everyone! Adios!

References:

Fauci SA, Lane HC, Redfield RR. 2020. Covid-19 – Navigating the unchartered. The New England Journal of Medicine 382:13.

He F, Deng Y, Li W. 2020. Coronavirus disease 2019: what we know? Journal of Medical Virology 1-7. DOI:10.1002/jmv.25766.

Lu et al. 2020. Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding. The Lancet 395:565-574.

Oh, BTW, you can also check this website for more COVID-19 updates: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/global-research-on-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov

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