Coronavirus disease 2019: The facts of the COVID-19 pandemic

The past weeks have seen the escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak when the World Health Organization declared the disease as a pandemic on March 11.

With that event, information flow has been constant as this fluid situation continues to change.

With that abundance of information, there’s also the possibility of misinformation to be spread.

This article is designed to provide basic information and to hopefully answer some questions you may have about the outbreak.

The information below is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.

Information is updated regularly on their websites cdc.gov and who.int.

Please keep in mind that the information provided in this article can/likely will become outdated as researchers and medical professionals learn more about this new disease. 

It’s advised to keep up-to-date on the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This is the first pandemic known to be caused by a new coronavirus, according to the CDC. 

Data gathered on pandemics have been from influenza-based illnesses, but the research and guidance formed through previous pandemics can be applied to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus disease 2019:

The outbreak which has been commonly referred to as “coronavirus” is caused by a new coronavirus named “SARS-CoV-2”. The disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” abbreviated as “COVID-19.” 

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease.

So far, information suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild.

Reported cases of the illness range from very mild to severe, with some cases reporting no symptoms and some cases resulting in death.

Severe cases are more likely to develop in older individuals and people of all ages with severe chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.

Symptoms, which appears about 2-14 days after exposure, include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Seek medical attention immediately if the following emergency warning signs develop:

  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • New confusion or inability to arouse.
  • Bluish lips or face.

Source and spread

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses common among people and many species of animals such as bats, cats, camels and cattle.

SARS-CoV-2 is one of the rare coronaviruses that can spread between animals and humans.

It is a betacoronavirus, which has its origin in bats.

The first case detected was in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and has been identified in over 100 locations internationally.

Many patients in the Wuhan, China outbreak had some link to a large seafood and live animal market.

A growing number of patients had reported no contact with these animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread.

Some locations including parts of the United States now have ongoing community spread, which means patients are unaware of how or where the exposure came from.

It is thought that the virus is spread mainly through person-to-person contact within six feet of each other and through respiratory droplets produced from an infected person’s cough or sneeze.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.

The virus appears to spread easily.

Timeline and stats

  • Dec. 31 – Cases of pneumonia are detected in Wuhan, China and reported to the WHO.
  • Jan. 7 – Chinese authorities confirm they have identified the virus as a novel coronavirus.
  • Jan. 11 – Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announces the first death caused by the coronavirus on Jan. 9
  • Jan. 13 – Thailand is the second country to report a case of infection.
  • Jan. 21 – The United States confirms the first case of COVID-19 on US soil.
  • Jan. 30 – the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”
  • Jan. 31 – Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar II declared a public health emergency in the United States to aid the national healthcare community to respond to COVID-19
  • Feb. 29 – A Washington state official announces a patient infected with the novel coronavirus has died, marking the first death from COVID-19 in the United States.
  • March 11 – WHO declares COVID-19 as a pandemic.
  • As of March 20, 15,219 people have tested positive for coronavirus in 50 states, Washington, D.C. and three territories. 201 patients have died.

Myths vs facts

Below are some statements to disprove possible myths that you may see.

Please keep in mind that the most effective way of preventing infection is to wash hands with soap and water or to clean them with alcohol-based hand rub and avoiding touching eyes, mouth and nose.

It’s also recommended to maintaining social distancing, staying six feet away from other people.

  • People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19.
  • The COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in both hot and cold climates. Evidence suggests that the coronavirus can be transmitted in all areas including hot and timid climates, cold weather and snowy conditions.
  • Taking a hot bath or shower will not contribute to the prevention of being infected by COVID-19.
  • The new coronavirus cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites.
  • Using hand dryers are not an effective way of killing the virus.
  • Ultraviolet disinfection lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as they can cause skin irritation.
  • Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body cannot kill viruses that have already entered your immune system. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothing and to mucus membranes such as eyes and mouth. Using alcohol and chlorine can be effective to disinfect surfaces under the appropriate recommended amounts.
  • Vaccines against pneumonia will not protect against the new coronavirus. COVID-19 needs its own vaccine developed.
  • There is no evidence that regularly rinsing your nose with saline solution will help prevent infection.
  • There is no evidence that eating garlic will help prevent the new coronavirus despite its antimicrobial properties.
  • Antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.
  • As of now, there is no specific medicine recommendation to prevent or treat the disease.
  • There is no evidence pointing towards the transmission of the virus through food or its packaging due to coronaviruses having low survivability on surfaces. That includes imported goods shipped from China.
  • There is currently no reason to worry about pets and animals catching or transmitting COVID-19. There haven’t been any reported cases to the CDC of pets or other animals getting the illness. It is recommended to avoid contact with pets if you do contract COVID-19.

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