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Coronavirus COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) – General Information

May 06, 2020
by Angelika Hofmann

Symptoms

Most people have these symptoms:

  • Fever (over 100.4F for adults, but can be lower (99.5F) in older people)
  • Dry cough (may come with mild sore throat and a little runny nose if the infection is severe)

Other symptoms people may experience:

  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle pain
  • (Temporary) loss of taste or smell
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Frostbite-like patches on toes (and fingers) (especially in younger people)

In severe cases, symptoms can worsen dramatically fast:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Organ failure
  • Neurological effects
  • Heart damage
  • Stroke in younger adults

Note: Some people show little or no symptoms at all – they are asymptomatic, especially those under 25.

Transmission

People are most infectious 1-2 days BEFORE showing any symptoms; even asymptomatic people can spread the virus

  • By droplet (coughing, sneezing, talking)
  • By contaminated surface contact
  • Potentially through stool
  • Potentially through aerosol particles (through the air)

R-factor/transmitting factor

The R-factor is thought to be 3-4, i.e. each infected person infects 3-4 others (flu is about 1), but could be higher.

Viability

Depending on temperature and humidity, the virus appears to be viable at least 5 days on surfaces; 1-2 days on paper and cardboard; several hours in the air. Viability increases with lower temperatures and lower humidity. The virus is not viable at temperatures above 170F.

Incubation period (the period after infection and before showing symptoms)

Estimates vary but most people show symptoms within 14 days of infection. Some reports indicate an incubation period of up to 28 days. Note: people are infectious BEFORE showing any symptoms, and some never show symptoms but are infectious.

Immunity and reinfection

People who have never been infected do not have any immunity against this virus. It is unclear how long people are immune after infection. There is evidence that people can get re-infected. Reinfection may occur either through a new strain of virus, or because people lose immunity or because the virus hides in the body (for example in nerve cells – like AIDS).

Seasonality

Some viruses are seasonal (flu, for example), meaning they are prevalent in certain seasons only. Other viruses are not seasonal, i.e. they occur throughout the year. It is unclear how corona virus behaves; it may not subside with warmer temperatures.

Disease

The virus is primarily lung specific and seeks direct access through your eyes, nose, and mouth. It initially infects your nose and throat (you may not notice, but could have a throat ache if there is a high viral load, i.e. if you caught a lot of viral particles from somewhere). During the day, you will swallow most of the virus particles in your throat and pass them through your digestive system. If you have a heavy infection, this may lead to diarrhea. During the night, when you sleep, you aspirate virus particles into the lungs. Older people do so more than younger people. This is often how the virus gets into your lungs.

Death rate

The exact death rate is of yet unclear especially as it is unknown how many infected people go undetected. However, the death rate for this coronavirus is higher than that of the flu (roughly 3.4%.). The death rate for humans increases with increasing age and for underlying health conditions: 15-20% if over 80 years; 8% if over 70; 3.5 % if over 60; 1.4% if over 50 (flu in comparison has a 0.1% death rate)

For people with underlying conditions: 6% or higher death rate if high blood pressure, more than 15% for people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, those who are immune-compromised, smokers – regardless of age

The virus is more deadly for men than for women (of those who died, more than 60% have been men).

Precautions

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, ears and mouth unless you have washed your hands very well just prior
  • Wash hands well and often, especially anytime you touch something that maybe contaminated
  • Self-isolate for 14 days if you have been exposed to an infected person or have been on a trip to an infected area
  • Consider self-isolation if you are elderly or immune-compromised
  • Wear protective equipment (mask, gloves), especially if you are around an infected person; dispose of or disinfect equipment after use
  • Keep a distance of AT LEAST 6 feet from people that are infected or when encountering others outside your home
  • Avoid crowds/meetings of larger groups of people indoors or out
  • Avoid using cash
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

Treatment

At this time, there are no known treatments. Vaccination will likely not be available before the end of the year.

Main goal during the epidemic

Slow down the virus spreading from person to person – it will otherwise overwhelm our hospital systems and lead to more deaths than needed as there is not enough equipment or beds and personnel to save lives.

What to expect

The virus will continue to spread—often undetected. We will likely see a second wave. How severe the current and next wave will be depends on us and how well we slow the disease. Sufficient testing and contact tracing will allow us to control the spread of the virus. A vaccine will allow us to return to normal.

Submitted by Mark Santore on March 27, 2020