What is a ‘novel’ coronavirus?
A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new strain of coronavirus.
The disease caused by the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’
The COVID-19 virus is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold. 
What is Corona Virus (COVID-19)?
Coronaviruses are a type of virus. There are many different kinds, and some cause disease. A newly identified type has caused a recent outbreak of respiratory illness now called COVID-19.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to MERS coronavirus, which is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and SARs, Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. Where do coronaviruses come from? Corona viruses are circulating in animals and some of these coronaviruses have the capability of transmitting between animals and humans. We call that a spillover event.
Lauren Sauer, M.S., the director of operations with the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response and director of research with the Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit, shares information about COVID-19 and what you need to know.
How does the new coronavirus spread?
As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why social and physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.
How did this new coronavirus spread to humans?
COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, a city in China, in December 2019. Although health officials are still tracing the exact source of this new coronavirus, early hypotheses thought it may be linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China. Some people who visited the market developed viral pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus. A study that came out on Jan. 25, 2020, notes that the individual with the first reported case became ill on Dec. 1, 2019, and had no link to the seafood market. Investigations are ongoing as to how this virus originated and spread.
What is the incubation period for COVID-19?
It appears that symptoms are showing up in people within 14 days of exposure to the virus.
COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Unexplained loss of taste or smell
In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death.
If you have a fever or any kind of respiratory difficulty such as coughing or shortness of breath, call your doctor or a health care provider and explain your symptoms over the phone before going to the doctor’s office, urgent care facility or emergency room. Here are suggestions if you feel sick and are concerned you might have COVID-19.
If you have a medical emergency such as severe shortness of breath, call 911 and let them know about your symptoms.
How is COVID-19 diagnosed?
Diagnosis may be difficult with only a physical exam because mild cases of COVID-19 may appear similar to the flu or a bad cold. A laboratory test can confirm the diagnosis. Learn more about COVID-19 testing.
How is COVID-19 treated?
As of now, there is not a specific treatment for the virus. People who become sick from COVID-19 should be treated with supportive measures: those that relieve symptoms. For severe cases, there may be additional options for treatment, including research drugs and therapeutics.
Does COVID-19 cause death?
As of April 11, more than 103,000 people worldwide have died of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Recovered:
393,443 as of this current date. This data sourced from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/?
The number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 has exceeded 1.7 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
However, 332,486 people have recovered from the illness. This information comes from the Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases map developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Evidence from different sources suggest the recovery numbers are on the rise.
Is this coronavirus different from SARS?
SARS stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome. In 2003, an outbreak of SARS started in China and spread to other countries before ending in 2004. The virus that causes COVID-19 is similar to the one that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak: both are types of coronaviruses. Much is still unknown, but COVID-19 seems to spread faster than the 2003 SARS and also may cause less severe illness.
How do you protect yourself from this coronavirus?
It’s crucial to practice good hygiene, respiratory etiquette and social and physical distancing. Read more about ways to protect yourself.
- Coronaviruses are common in different animals. Rarely, an animal coronavirus can infect humans.
- There are many different kinds of coronaviruses. Some of them can cause colds or other mild respiratory (nose, throat, lung) illnesses.
- Other coronaviruses can cause more serious diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
- Coronaviruses are named for their appearance: Under the microscope, the viruses look like they are covered with pointed structures that surround them like a corona, or crown.
To help lessen the spread of the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, here are important steps that can help protect you, your family and others. Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Medicine, shares these guidelines:
Avoid close contact with others.
It’s important to understand that the new coronavirus spreads mainly from person to person. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, their droplets can infect people nearby. That’s why it’s important to avoid close contact with others. Understand that people (including children) may be infected with the new coronavirus and have only mild symptoms.
Some measures you can take to avoid close contact with others include:
- Stay home as much as possible and reduce visitors.
- Practice social and physical distancing:
- Stay at least six feet away from others in public places.
- Call friends and family or visit by video.
- Ask your employer if it’s possible to work from home.
- Avoid people who appear sick.
- Go grocery shopping and run errands during off-peak times.
- The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
The new coronavirus can survive for hours or even days on some surfaces. Touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face is one of the ways to become infected.
The virus is no longer detectable on plastic after 72 hours, and on stainless steel or cardboard after about 48 hours. With that in mind:
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, especially:
- After being in public places and touching door handles, shopping carts, elevator buttons, etc.
- After using the bathroom
- Before preparing food
- If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
- If you cough or sneeze, do so in the bend of your elbow. If you use a tissue, throw it away immediately.
How does the COVID-19 virus spread?
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (generated through coughing and sneezing), and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. The COVID-19 virus may survive on surfaces for several hours, but simple disinfectants can kill it.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal.
These symptoms are similar to the flu (influenza) or the common cold, which are a lot more common than COVID-19. This is why testing is required to confirm if someone has COVID-19. It’s important to remember that key prevention measures are the same – frequent hand washing, and respiratory hygiene (cover your cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or tissue, then throw away the tissue into a closed bin). Also, there is a vaccine for the flu – so remember to keep yourself and your child up to date with vaccinations.
How can I avoid the risk of infection?
Here are four precautions you and your family can take to avoid infection:
Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue, when coughing or sneezing, and throw away the tissue into a closed bin
Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms
Go to the doctor if you have a fever, cough or feel that it is difficult to breathe
Should I wear a medical mask?
The use of a medical mask is advised if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) to protect others. If you don’t have any symptoms, then there is no need to wear a mask.
If masks are worn, they must be used and disposed of properly to ensure their effectiveness and to avoid any increased risk of transmitting the virus.
The use of a mask alone is not enough to stop infections and must be combined with frequent hand washing, covering sneezes and coughs, and avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, fever).
Does COVID-19 affect children?
This is a new virus and we do not know enough yet about how it affects children or pregnant women. We know it is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, but so far there have been relatively few cases of COVID-19 reported among children. The virus is fatal in rare cases, so far mainly among older people with pre-existing medical conditions.
What should I do if my child has symptoms of COVID-19?
Seek medical attention, but remember that it’s flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, and symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough or fever can be similar to those of the flu, or the common cold – which are a lot more frequent.
Continue to follow good hand and respiratory hygiene practices like regular handwashing, and keep your child up to date with vaccinations – so that your child is protected against other viruses and bacteria causing diseases.
As with other respiratory infections like the flu, seek care early if you or your child are having symptoms, and try to avoid going to public places (workplace, schools, public transport), to prevent spread to others.
What should I do if a family member displays symptoms?
You should seek medical care early if you or your child has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Consider calling ahead to tell your health care provider if you have traveled to an area where COVID-19 has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has traveled from one of these areas and has respiratory symptoms.
Should I take my child out of school?
If your child is having symptoms, seek medical care, and follow the instructions from the health care provider. Otherwise, as with other respiratory infections like the flu, keep your child well rested at home while symptomatic, and avoid going to public places, to prevent spread to others.
If your child isn’t displaying any symptoms such as a fever or cough – and unless a public health advisory or other relevant warning or official advice has been issued affecting your child’s school – it’s best to keep your child in class.
Instead of keeping children out of school, teach them good hand and respiratory hygiene practices for school and elsewhere, like frequent handwashing (see below), covering cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or tissue, then throwing away the tissue into a closed bin, not touching their eyes, mouths or noses if they haven’t properly washed their hands.
What is the best way to wash hands properly?
Step 1: Wet hands with running water
Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
Step 3: Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including back of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with running water
Step 5: Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel
Wash your hands often, especially before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and going to the bathroom.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water, if hands are visibly dirty.
Can pregnant women pass coronavirus to unborn children?
At this time, there is not enough evidence to determine whether the virus is transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, or the potential impact this may have on the baby. This is currently being investigated. Pregnant women should continue to follow appropriate precautions to protect themselves from exposure to the virus, and seek medical care early, if experiencing symptoms, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
Is it safe for a mother to breastfeed if she is infected with coronavirus?
All mothers in affected and at-risk areas who have symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, should seek medical care early, and follow instructions from a health care provider.
Considering the benefits of breastfeeding and the insignificant role of breastmilk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, the mother can continue breastfeeding, while applying all the necessary precautions.
For symptomatic mothers well enough to breastfeed, this includes wearing a mask when near a child (including during feeding), washing hands before and after contact with the child (including feeding), and cleaning/disinfecting contaminated surfaces – as should be done in all cases where anyone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 interacts with others, including children.
If a mother is too ill, she should be encouraged to express milk and give it to the child via a clean cup and/or spoon – all while following the same infection prevention methods.
Is there treatment? There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, but symptoms can be treated.
The Global effects of COVID -19 will forever change the way things are done globally. Human interactions are being greatly reduced or avoided to stop the spread of the pandemic.
How will our world be beyond COVID -19?
There must be a re-think about the following:
- The massing of people at social events; ie. Sporting Activities, recreational centers, Schools and Religious gatherings, Transportation, concerts and conventions, corporate hang-outs, conferences etc.
- How can these social events be enjoyed without the massing of large crowds at the same time?
- How can we give the best education to children and adults without over exposing them in crowded school environments.?
- What measures can nations adopt in our health systems to avert and reduce similar virus infections going forward.
- How can we strengthen weak health systems to cope with such contagion in the future?
- What additional systems and equipment need to be put in place to protect frontline health workers and patients?
- How can the Working from Home phenomenon be well integrated in the global economic market place?
- Millions around the world are losing their traditional jobs. What are the options to put everyone back in employment?
- What new inventions in terms of vaccines and treatment can medical science come up with to save the world in such situations.
- Shouldn’t all countries and especially rich countries reduce investment in wars and military hardware and spend more on healthcare, medical research and technology to save the world?
Lesson Learnt: Nothing is constant and permanent in Life as we’ve seen and learn from COVID -19. Change is the only constant. Let nations put away complacency and consistently work to make our world a better place. The good works we do in this world, the better we make it for all of us.