A new coronavirus that emerged in China late last year has spread to at least 188 countries on six continents, with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the pathogen outbreak to be a pandemic.
- More than 602, 000 people died of the virus worldwide and the number of reported cases exceeded 14.3 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. At least eight million people have recovered so far.
With the spread of fear, scientists and researchers around the world have stepped up efforts to understand the new virus and how it affects the human body. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease.
Here’s what we know about coronavirus and the highly infectious respiratory disease it causes, COVID-19, and what happens if you are infected.
“Various levels of gravity”
The new virus belongs to a family of viruses that can cause respiratory diseases in humans ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Thought to have been transmitted to humans from an unidentified animal source, the new virus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets, such as those generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
On average, it takes around 5-6 days to show symptoms after becoming infected. However, some people who carry the virus remain asymptomatic, meaning they don’t show any symptoms.
The virus multiplies in the respiratory tract and can cause a variety of symptoms, according to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who heads the WHO emergency health program.
“You have mild cases, which resemble the common cold, which have some respiratory symptoms, sore throat, runny nose, fever, through pneumonia. And there can be different levels of severity of pneumonia through multiorgan failure and death,” he said. told reporters in Geneva on February 7.
However, in most cases, the symptoms have remained mild.
“We have seen some data on about 17,000 cases and, overall, 82% of these are mild, 15% of the serious ones and 3% of those classified as critical,” said Van Kerkhove.
Fever, cough, pneumonia
A study of 138 patients infected with the new virus in Wuhan, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on February 7, they showed that the most common symptoms were fever, fatigue and dry cough. A third of patients also reported muscle pain and breathing difficulties, while around 10% had atypical symptoms, including diarrhea and nausea.
The patients, who were between 22 and 92 years old, were admitted to the Zhongnan hospital of Wuhan University between January 1 and 28. “The average age of the patients is between 49 and 56 years old,” JAMA She said. “Cases in children have been rare.”
While most cases appear to be mild, all patients have developed pneumonia, according to JAMA.
About a third subsequently developed severe breathing difficulties, which require treatment in the intensive care unit. Critically ill people were older and had other underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
Six of the 138 patients died – a figure representing a 4.3 percent mortality rate, which is higher than estimates in other parts of China. So far less than 2 percent of the total number of infected people have died from the virus, but this figure may change.
In the meantime, a study published on January 24 in the medical journal The Lancet he discovered what he called “cytokine storm” in infected patients who were seriously ill. A cytokine storm is a severe immune reaction in which the body produces immune cells and proteins that can destroy other organs.
Some experts argue that this could explain the deaths in younger patients. Statistics from China show that some people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who were not known to have had previous health problems died of illness.
A chronology of how the disease progresses
According to JAMA, on average, people were breathless within five days of the onset of symptoms. Serious respiratory problems were observed in about eight days.
The study did not provide a timeline for when the deaths occurred.
However, a previous study published In the Journal of Medical Virology of January 29 it was said that, on average, dead people did so within 14 days of the onset of the disease.
The study looked at the medical data of a 35-year-old man, the first case of infection in the United States. The first symptom was a dry cough, followed by a fever.
On the third day of illness, he reported nausea and vomiting followed by diarrhea and abdominal discomfort on the sixth day. By the ninth day, he had developed pneumonia and reported breathing difficulties.
By the twelfth day, his condition had improved and his fever was decreasing. He developed a runny nose, however. On day 14, she was asymptomatic except for a slight cough.
According to local media reports, he sought treatment on January 19 and was discharged from the hospital in the first week of February.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO, told reporters on February 24 that statistics from China suggest that the recovery time for people with mild illness is around two weeks. People with severe or critical illness can take between three and six weeks to heal.
On February 28, Tedros said that nations should prepare for a potential pandemic, as countries other than China at that point accounted for three quarters of the new infections.
March 4 he warned that a global shortage and falling prices for protective equipment were undermining countries’ ability to respond to the epidemic and called on companies and governments to increase production by 40 percent.
March 11 the WHO chief has called COVID-19 a pandemic and has expressed concern about “alarming levels of diffusion and severity and alarming levels of inaction. ”
March 13 Tedros said that Europe had become the epicenter of the pandemic after reporting more cases and deaths of “rest of the world put together, apart from China”.
But later the United States became the most affected country.
By April 29th, the death toll in the United States had exceeded 60, 000 among over 1 million cases.