A microorganism invisible to the human eye, that can travel through air, “jump” up to six feet, is highly contagious, and for which there is no vaccine available is causing hysteria around the world: coronavirus, which causes the illness named COVID-19.
In less than three months since its official announcement on December 31, 2019, the virus that was first found in Wuhan, China has affected more than 180 countries and territories, causing hundreds of thousands people to become sick and killing more than 8,000. This definitely sounds like cause for alarm.
Even so, experts want to reassure us of one thing: we should not let panic overcome us.
Below are 10 reasons we should heed their advice.
1. The origin of the outbreak was immediately identified.
In just seven days after the official announcement of a new virus that was causing strange cases of pneumonia in China, it had already been identified as part of the family of coronaviruses (which have this name because of their crown-like shape when viewed under a microscope).
Scientists quickly found that the new coronavirus came from the same family of viruses that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) years ago. Although it behaves differently from these two viruses, this information has helped scientists begin to understand it.
2. A test to detect it was developed quickly.
On January 13, its genetic sequence had been identified and a test developed to diagnose it. The first test was developed in Germany and was immediately sent to China. Now there are dozens of tests available around the world.
In the United States, even before the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had developed one, the University of California, Davis had developed a test that was almost immediately backed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
3. Most people have a form of the virus that is not severe and will recover. A person who has contracted coronavirus will build up immunity, and it is rarely affecting children.
A study carried out in China on 45,000 patients showed that 81% of cases were not severe, 14% developed severe symptoms, and the remaining 5% were in critical condition.
According to China’s Center for Disease Control, 87% of cases in this country were diagnosed in people between 30 and 79 years of age. This percentage came from an analysis of the first 72,000 cases that were concentrated mostly in the region of Wuhan, China. People between 20 and 29 years of age accounted for 8.1% of cases, while 1.2% were adolescents and 0.9% under the age of 9.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that since mid-January, no child in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, has been infected.
Age, in addition to suffering from preexisting respiratory diseases, may be risk factors that can lead to complications from COVID-19 which can be fatal.
4. Recovery rates are high
As of March 9, the John Hopkins University map monitoring the spread of coronavirus in real time showed that more than 62,500 people had recovered.
5. It’s not that easy to catch it
Although the rapidly growing numbers of cases seem to show that the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, can spread at the speed of light, the truth is that it’s not that easy to catch it.
Frequently washing your hands with soap and water (not just getting them wet) is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus.
You are only considered to be at a high risk of becoming infected with coronavirus if you live with someone who has coronavirus, have direct physical contact with an infected person, or they cough or sneeze on you (or you pick up a used tissue), or are face to face at a distance of less than 2 meters for more than 15 minutes with someone carrying the virus.
It’s unlikely you’ll catch the virus just by walking down the street.
Another important prevention measure is staying at home if you are ill.
6. Laboratories around the world are working on treatments and a preventative vaccine
According to the National Medicines Laboratory, there have already been over 500 jobs generated to analyze various aspects of the new coronavirus and this pandemic. The federal site, clinicaltrials.gov, which compiles all medical trials carried out globally, has registered 75 clinical trials that have either already begun or are just starting for the new coronavirus. It’s a relief to know that there are so many people working on ending the outbreak (for reasons related to both business and public health).
7. Vaccine prototypes are already being developed.
At least four laboratories and a dozen academic groups, including the University of Queensland in Australia, are working on a preventative vaccination. But we should not get our hopes up too soon, as it could take over a year to prove their efficacy and safety. Doctor Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the United States, said that the process of getting a vaccine on the market could take around 18 months.
8. Treatments based on drugs used to fight known illnesses are already being used
While the scientific community searches for an effective treatment for tens of thousands of patients that are ill from this novel respiratory virus, some surprising remedies are being tested, including medicines that fight known deadly viruses such as HIV, Ebola, and malaria.
When a new virus arises that places a large number of people at risk, scientists sometimes turn to existing medications that can be adapted for the new virus. Medications available in the United States must be submitted to rigorous testing to prove their safety, thereby avoiding the need to carry out costly testing on humans to assess their safety in an emergency.
Though there are no specific treatments for COVID-19 itself, these drugs can help to alleviate symptoms while the necessary therapies are being developed.
9. It is possible to hinder its spread
The dramatic quarantines imposed in entire regions of China seems to have worked. They have definitely stopped the virus’s spread, and in fact, in recent weeks, China has seen fewer new cases, even none in some areas. Italy just took similar measures, first in the north, and then in the entire country. In other countries, outbreaks have occurred in limited areas, although the course the outbreak will take remains to be seen.
10. Collective and individual actions taken together will help stop its spread
It is clear that people are taking this outbreak very seriously. Hand disinfectant is sold out in stores everywhere, and though the virus is having a negative impact on the economy, it has also temporarily dampened people’s enthusiasm for massive events. The new concept of social distancing has been implemented to prevent the spread of the virus and companies are instructing their employees to follow these new rules.
Decisions are being made in order to reach a common goal: to stop the spread and prevent infection.
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