What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that causes illnesses such as sinuses, upper throat or nose infection, or the common cold. The virus is dispersed through the air through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, or touching something that’s contaminated by the virus. Usually, the illness caused by coronavirus doesn’t last for a long time.
COVID-19 is a newly-discovered coronavirus that was identified as SARS-CoV-2 by the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31. 2019. By March 11, 2020, it has been raised to a pandemic status because it has spread across continents and was affecting a substantial number of people. The transmission rate of COVID-19 is relatively high. Since then, WHO has worked with governments and other stakeholders to speedily expand verified scientific knowledge about the virus so that they can provide evidence-based advice to countries and individuals. As of this writing, the virus has affected hundreds of millions of people around the world, with over three million deaths.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The time it takes to develop symptoms of COVID-19 is 14 days. This is the reason why people who have been exposed to the virus should be isolated for this number of days to prevent the virus from spreading. The three most common COVID-19 symptoms are tiredness or fatigue, fever, and dry cough. For most people, it feels like they have a cold or have a flu-like feeling.
Less common symptoms are:
- nasal congestion
- nausea or vomiting
- loss of taste
- loss of smell
- sore throat
- muscle or joint pain
- chills (sometimes accompanied by shaking)
- skin rash
- Some people are also known to develop conjunctivitis.
There are also identified symptoms that are less commonly occurring such as confusion, sleep disorders, depression and anxiety, and reduced consciousness.
Severe COVID-19 symptoms include:
- loss of appetite
- shortness of breath
- high temperature
- persistent pain in the chest
What happens if you get COVID-19?
Several things could happen if you get COVID-19.
- Asymptomatic carriers – First, you may test positive for COVID-19 but be an asymptomatic carrier, meaning you don’t exhibit any symptoms. However, people who are asymptomatic should still stay in isolation for 14 days, the entire duration of the incubation period of the virus. If they are not isolated, they run the risk of transmitting the virus to people.
- Mild symptoms – Those who have mild symptoms recover without hospital treatment. This comprises about 80% of the cases. People who have mild symptoms should check in with their doctor just to make sure that it doesn’t progress into something more severe.
- Severe cases – About 15% of cases have severe symptoms and become seriously ill and require oxygen. These patients require intensive care in a health facility. When the virus enters the cells in the lungs, it starts to replicate, and this is when it starts getting serious. The most severe cases, about 6% of patients, have multiple organ failure, septic shock, and respiratory failure. The fatality rate of COVID-19 increases the older you get and if you have pre-existing conditions that have weakened your immune system. This means the elderly (over 60 years old) and those who have underlying diseases such as diabetes, heart illness, cancer, chronic kidney disease, or lung illness, are most vulnerable.
Different variants of COVID-19
Through mutation, a virus constantly changes and evolves over time. These mutations are normal. Mutations of the virus increase especially when it is rampantly going around in a population and causing a lot of infections. Over time, variants of COVID-19 are expected to occur. COVID-19 variants have spread across South Africa, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, India, and the Philippines.
In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in cooperation with an interagency group, has identified three variant classifications: Variants of Interest (VOI), Variants of Concern (VOC), and Variants of High Consequence (VOHC).
- Variants of Interest (VOI) – there is evidence that it is a cause of an increased number of cases but there is limited prevalence.
- Variants of Concern (VOC) – there is evidence of an increase in transmissions, more severe symptoms, and reduced effectiveness of the usual treatments. Under International Health Regulations, these variants need to be reported to WHO.
- Variants of High Consequence (VOHC) – there is significantly reduced effectiveness of known treatments, more severe symptoms, and increased hospitalizations. There is currently no variant classified under VOHC.
Protection from COVID-19
Following simple precautions such as social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands, avoiding crowded places, keeping rooms ventilated, and disinfecting surfaces will keep us safe from COVID-19.
Still, the best way to protect people from the virus and the risk of new variants is to scale up manufacturing and rolling out of the vaccine. Ensuring that all people have equal access to COVID-19 vaccines is very important.
Vaccine Information: COVID-19
COVID-19 vaccines are essential tools in the global battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, there are several vaccines are under the emergency use listing (EUL) of WHO. This process assesses the suitability of vaccines in development – with the objective of making them available as rapidly as possible – while adhering to stringent criteria that follow quality, safety, and efficacy standards. While these vaccines are being rolled out, the company producing them still has to continuously assess and generate data, providing full disclosure to WHO. WHO has listed the following vaccines under emergency use listing (EUL):
- Johnson and Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine
- Moderna Vaccine
- AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea)
- Serum Institute of India
- Sinopharm (China)
Here is another question: are the current COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved able to provide a degree of protection against the new variants of the virus? The answer to that is yes. These vaccines are developed to cause a wide-ranging immune response into cells and antibodies. That means that mutations in the virus would not make the approved vaccines ineffective.
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