Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the name given to the 2019 novel coronavirus. COVID-19 is the name given to the disease associated with the virus. SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals with some of them also known to infect humans. Bats are considered natural hosts of these viruses yet several other species of animals are also known to act as sources. For instance, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is transmitted to humans from camels, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-1 (SARS-CoV-1) is transmitted to humans from civet cats.
The novel coronavirus detected in China in 2019 is closely related genetically to the SARS-CoV-1 virus.
SARS emerged at the end of 2002 in China, and it caused more than 8,000 cases in 33 countries over a period of eight months. Around one in ten of the people who developed SARS died.
As of 17 September, the COVID-19 outbreak had caused over 30 million cases worldwide since the first case was reported in China in January 2020. Of these, more than 950,000 are known to have died while close to 22 million have recovered.
While the viruses that cause both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are transmitted from person-to-person and may cause similar symptoms, the two viruses are very different and do not behave in the same way.
The concern about COVID-19 is that, unlike influenza, there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for the disease. It also appears to be more transmissible than seasonal influenza. As it is a new virus, nobody has prior immunity, which means that the entire human population is potentially susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
While animals are believed to be the original source, the virus spread is now from person to person (human-to-human transmission).
There is not enough epidemiological information at this time to determine how easily this virus spreads between people, but it is currently estimated that, on average, one infected person will infect between two and three other people.
The virus seems to be transmitted mainly via small respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing, or when people interact with each other for some time in close proximity (usually less than one metre).
These droplets can then be inhaled, or they can land on surfaces that others may come into contact with, who can then get infected when they touch their nose, mouth or eyes.
The virus can survive on different surfaces from several hours (copper, cardboard) up to a few days (plastic and stainless steel). However, the amount of viable virus declines over time and may not always be present in sufficient numbers to cause infection.
The incubation period for COVID-19 (i.e. the time between exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms) is currently estimated to be between one and 14 days.
We know that the virus can be transmitted when people who are infected show symptoms such as coughing. There is also some evidence suggesting that transmission can occur from a person that is infected even two days before showing symptoms; however, uncertainties remain about the effect of transmission by asymptomatic persons.
The infectious period may begin one to two days before symptoms appear, but people are likely most infectious during the symptomatic period, even if symptoms are mild and very non-specific. The infectious period is now estimated to last for 7-12 days in moderate cases and up to two weeks on average in severe cases.
Preliminary data from EU, US, China and Australasia (from the countries with available data) show that around 10-15% of diagnosed COVID-19 cases are hospitalised and 2-4% have severe illness.
Hospitalisation rates are higher for those aged 60 years and above, and for those with other underlying health conditions. Adults between 30 to 50 years also have a high chance of needing hospital care.
It is also now postulated that nearly 40-60% are symptomless.
Additionally the good news is that death rate is much lower than at the start of the pandemic (January to April) as the understanding and knowledge of the disease pattern and the medicines/therapy available are much more better and effective.
The virus enters your body via your eyes, nose and/or mouth, so it is important to avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
Washing of hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or cleaning hands thoroughly with alcohol-based solutions, gels or tissues is recommended in all settings.
It is also recommended to stay one metre or more away from people infected with COVID-19 who are showing symptoms, to reduce the risk of infection through respiratory droplets.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue. If you use a tissue, dispose of it carefully after a single use
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Stay one metre or more away from people to reduce the risk of spreading the virus through respiratory droplets.
If you feel unwell, stay at home. If you develop any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, you should immediately call the PHH Telehealth number for advice.
Physical distancing aims to reduce physical contact between potentially infected people and healthy people, or between population groups with high rates of transmission and others with low or no level of transmission.
The objective of this is to decrease or interrupt the spread of COVID-19.
Note that the term ‘physical distancing’ means the same thing as the widely used term ‘social distancing’, but it more accurately describes what is intended, namely that people keep physically apart.
It is possible that physical distancing measures will have to be implemented over an extended period, and their success depends partially on ensuring that people maintain social contact – from a distance – with friends, family and colleagues.
Internet-based communications and the phone are therefore key tools for ensuring a successful physical distancing strategy.
On a personal level, you can perform physical distancing measures by: Voluntarily self-isolating if you know you have the virus that causes COVID-19, or if you have suggestive respiratory symptoms, or if you belong to a high-risk group (i.e. you are aged 70 years or more, or you have an underlying health condition).
Many countries in across the world like Myanmar have installed quarantine and social/physical distancing as measures to prevent the further spread of the virus.
These measures can include:
- The full or partial closure of educational institutions and workplaces;
- Limiting the number of visitors and limiting the contact between the residents of confined settings,
- such as long-term care facilities and prisons;
- Cancellation, prohibition and restriction of mass gatherings and smaller meetings;
- Mandatory quarantine of buildings or residential areas;
- Internal or external border closures;
- Stay-at-home restrictions for entire states, regions or countries.
- Worker restrictions in organisation to 50% or less.
Follow the guidelines of the MOHS and Regional Government authorities in your area, region or and/or country on the steps to be taken, or call the PHH Telehealth number.
Yes it is effective as long as it is worn correctly at all times.
If you are infected, the use of surgical face masks will reduce the risk of you infecting other people.
In fact, it is possible that if you do not wear and care for the face mask appropriately it can give you a false of security and increased contact between hands, mouth and eyes while wearing them.
There are currently no vaccines against human coronaviruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
This is why it is very important to prevent infection and to take measures to contain further spread of the virus.
The development of vaccines will take time. Several pharmaceutical companies and research laboratories are working on vaccine candidates.
It will, however, take many months or even years before any vaccine can be widely used, as it needs to undergo extensive testing in clinical trials to determine its safety and efficacy.
However based on current progress global leaders are optimistic that we could have a vaccine as early as end 2020. Realistically we could be looking at mid 2021.
Having the influenza vaccine does not protect you against Covid 19. The virus that causes Influenza and COVID-19 are two very different viruses. The seasonal influenza vaccine will not protect against COVID-19.
Most important is for each one of us to take personal responsibility and ownership to prevent the spread by practicing basic hygiene and safety behaviours.
Getting the equilibrium to SURVIVE (sustain self, institution and country); PROTECT JOBS (ensuring livelihoods are kept to protect far greater social and disease impact in communities); and DELIVER OUR PURPOSE (ensuring we continue to live and provide what we can for the development of the profession, institution and the country) is what is needed at this moment.
Together we can and we will.