Covid-19: The Facts
Covid-19 is the most challenging of the previous known corona viruses.
In December 2019, in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China, pneumonia cases of an unknown cause were detected which lead to deaths. When the Chinese government became aware of this they reported it to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 31st 2019. The research conducted since that time has discovered that this corona virus originally came from bats. It was in a wholesale seafood market in Wuhan where the virus is believed to have been transmitted to a human. Of course there had to have been intermediate hosts whether it be pangolins or snakes. We are not entirely sure yet. The virus known as SARS-CoV-2 that caused Covid-19 jumped from a bat, to an intermediate host (a pangolian or a snake) and then to a human resulting in severe pneumonia. The death rate is 2% to 3% on average. Because this is a new virus that we have never encountered before we don’t have any treatments or vaccines. In every country the number of patients is exploding. Europe is especially badly affected and in the US especially in big cities like New York things are getting worse. It is a very serious threat at the moment.
The death rate varies depending on the country. Even though it is the same virus, every country has different quarantine protocols, different levels of sophistication for healthcare and different demographics. For countries with a large elderly population like Italy the death rate is very high at 8% to 9%. Recent preliminary research even suggests that countries whose populations have high levels of BCG vaccinations had significantly fewer Covid-19 related deaths. Although this seems promising, there are many other mitigating factors to consider also.
The death rate increases greatly in anyone over 60 to 70 years. As we age, and more significantly after the age of 60 our immune systems deteriorate. Just like a cancer patient for comparison sake your immune system starts deteriorating rapidly. That is why if people in their 70’s or 80’s get infected their immune systems find it very difficult to fight the virus. Because the virus can lead to pneumonia or inflammation all over the body the virus can put the elderly in critical condition and increase the chances of death. Also those with chronic medical conditions are another high risk group. Even if they are under 60, if they have any cardiovascular problems, a chronic lung condition, diabetes, or are smokers. As nicotine can accumulate in their respiratory system they can also get very sick. Even those using immunosuppressive drugs like steroids or anticancer drugs are at risk as well.
We have evidence from other countries to also suggest that you can get re infected after you have had the virus once. Usually when we get sick, it takes about 2 weeks for our body to develop antibodies. Then we don’t get sick again from the same virus. But with Covid-19, we have seen cases in other countries where a patient got Covid-19 and recovered, was discharged and represented with symptoms again after 5 to 7 days. So there are incidences of reactivation cases.
There are 3 main ways to get infected.
Once the virus infects our respiratory system the main symptoms are a fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. So when you cough or sneeze you produce droplets. A droplet has to be bigger than 5 microns, and one droplet contains many virus particles. Because the droplets from a sneeze or cough are bigger than 5 microns they can typically spread out to a maximum of a 2m radius from an infected person. If you are within the 2m radius, and the droplets land on your mouth, nose or eyes you could get infected. The virus is absorbed into our systems through the mucous membranes or our mouth, noses or our eyes. The most common route of transmission is through droplets.
The second most common route of transmission is through direct contact with an infected person. If the infected person has some of the virus particles on their hands, maybe they coughed into their hand, and if a non infected person touches that person, and then touches their face it is likely that they will get infected.
The third most common route of transmission is through picking it up off of surfaces that the virus is on. If an infected person has a runny nose, or a cough and some droplets get onto their hands and they then tough a surface, the virus can live on that surface for anything up to 3 days depending on the surface itself and the temperature and humidity condition.
So largely in order to be at risk of contracting the virus, and to be considered a close contact of a confirmed case of Covid-19, you have to be within a 2m radius of a confirmed case for 15 minutes or more.
In order to minimise your risk, the HSE recommends;
-frequent handwashing and sanitising with a minimum 60% alcohol solution
-to sneeze or cough into a tissue which is immediately binned or in the absense of a tissue to use the crook of your elbow
-to remain in your homes unless you are a worker of an essential service, to shop for food, to attend medical appointments or to collect medications
-if out of your homes to maintain a minimum 2m distance from others
As we are currently in a lockdown scenario in Ireland, we are only permitted to exercise outdoors once daily and no further than 2km from our homes. We are permitted to exercise with members of our own families.
The HSE and the Government have also introduced cocooning measures to protect the more vulnerable in our communities. This means that this cohort of people are not permitted to leave their homes unless for medical purposes. They are not to go shopping or to the pharmacy. We are offering free delivery to all at this time.
As yet we have not seen the start of the surge here. It is predicted that this will come in the next 7 to 10 days. The government has spent the last few weeks and an awful lot of money and resources equipping our health service to deal with the surge when it comes, and it will. Our hospital capacity, including most critically our ICU capacity has been increased. Our aim here is to save as many lives as possible until further developments in the World wide fight against Covid-19 allow us to ease the restrictions and get people back to school, to work and to some semblance of normality.
Let us all play our part. Let us all stay home to save lives.