COVID-19 What we now know

Author: Bruce J. Little

And what we yet don’t.

Despite various epidemiologists like Rebecca S.B. Fischer referring to the global spread of COVID-19 as a ‘pandemic’, weeks prior, the World Health Organization (WHO) only officially adopted the term on the 11th of March 2020.

Professor Fischer describes a pandemic as an epidemic that has become “international and out of control”, in an article for The Conversation, and goes on to explain why she and other experts were early adopters of the term.

Still a novelty

Considering global awareness of this novel form of the coronavirus has only spanned roughly three months, health experts have been forced to accumulate knowledge about the strain in record time.

The CDC has warned the public that COVID-19 is a new disease and has stated:“we are still learning how it spreads”.

What has been proven to cause person-to-person transmission is “close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)” and “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”

Symptoms may vary but rarely

According to the WHO, the most common symptoms present in confirmed cases of COVID-19 is fever and a dry cough.  Almost 90 per cent of cases reported fever and two-thirds a dry cough.

The next most reported symptoms were fatigue, mucus and phlegm, shortness of breath and muscle or joint pain.

However, other symptoms like headache, nausea and runny nose cannot be ruled out either despite being much less prevalent.

ABC News and The Guardian recently shared news of a Melbourne-based GP who continued seeing 70 patients after being infected with COVID-19 because he did not believe he met the criteria for risk after presenting with a runny nose and other symptoms that are not commonly associated with this particular coronavirus.  

How we suspect it makes us sick

In an interview with Sky News, medical microbiologist, Professor Mark Fielder explains that the virus attacks the cells in the lungs that keep the lungs moist and the ciliated cells that allow lungs to clean and clear themselves of any “nasty material that gets stuck in the mucus, such as bacteria and viruses, or particles of dust.”

This process can also cause the body’s immune system to “go haywire”, says Professor Fielder causing the lungs to become inflamed, making it even more difficult to breathe.

He explains that the virus also seems to target the kidneys, which “could eventually lead to organ failure” in extreme cases.

Symptoms of infection can range from asymptomatic (no symptoms) to mild, through to severe symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The great unknown

Valiant and tireless efforts of health experts considered, there are still currently some facts that need to be established and mysteries to be solved around COVID-19. 

  • Is COVID-19 less of a threat for kids? According to Healthline, “few children have been infected with the new coronavirus. And those who test positively for COVID-19 seem to experience milder symptoms compared to older people.” Why this is the case has yet to be determined by experts.

  • How long can the virus live on surfaces? According to research published in the Journal of Hospital Infection “Human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to 9 days. At a temperature of 30°C [86°F] or more, the duration of persistence is shorter.” This is significantly longer than what many of the world’s health authorities have been communicating. Perhaps this is also information that is yet to be determined.

  • Faecal-oral transmission? Research published by the Journal of Digestive Diseases states that the possibility of COVID-19 transmission via the faecal-oral route should be taken into account.  However, the WHO and the CDC says there have been no such transmissions reported and that it appears to be an unlikely form of transmission.

 One thing about COVID-19 we can be sure of is that we haven’t got it covered.   

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