COVID-19 (formally SARS-CoV-2) is a respiratory virus, caused by a new type of coronavirus (in the same family as the virus that causes the common cold) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and has now been detected in 57 locations nationally, including fewer than 100 in the United States. One of its primary features is how contagious it is; the virus can live for hours in a dormant state on surfaces (like a doorknob) after an infected person touches them. It is spread through the air in microscopic droplets when people breath, cough or sneeze. The Center for Disease Control recommends that people who HAVE the virus wear a mask to protect others, but have said that wearing a normal facial mask doesn’t prevent people from getting the disease.
In most cases, the symptoms of the disease appear within five days, but there have been reported cases of a 14 day incubation period. Because people can be contagious for up to two weeks before they show symptoms, the virus is very hard to quarantine. This became more evident when it was discovered that a dog had been infected, meaning that it’s possible for animals to transmit the disease back and forth with humans. The International Journal of Infectious Diseases, studying the COVID-19 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that reported 355 passengers who contracted the virus, calculated that each person who is infected with the disease, on average, will infect 2.28 others.
As of March 2, there are about 85,000 reported cases worldwide, and about 3000 fatalities. The World Health Organization officials have recently increased the risk assessment to the highest (“very high”) level of risk assessment in terms of spread and impact.
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe. Researchers from China’s Center for Disease Control have recently released the clinical findings of more than 72,000 cases reported in mainland China. The overall death rate is 2.3%, but different populations are far more likely to suffer fatalities than others. An alarming 14.8% of patients 80 and older died from the disease, and 8.0% of patients aged 70-79. At the other end, 81% of the cases in the study were classified as mild, meaning they did not result in pneumonia or resulted in only mild pneumonia.
Fatality rates for children 0-9 years old so far is zero, and the rates are not high for people in younger age ranges: 10-39 years old (0.2%), 40-49 (0.4%), 50-59 (1.3%) and 60-69 (3.6%). There may be a vaccine on the way, though it is uncertain how soon. China’s Clover Biopharmaceuticals is partnering with GlaxoSmithKline on a protein-based coronavirus vaccine candidate called COVID-19 S-Trimer. The University of Queensland in Australia announced a vaccine candidate, and globally, at least 10 other vaccine initiatives are under way. Treatments for people who have already contracted the disease are as yet unproven. An antiviral drug called remdesivir, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, is being tested on 700 sick patients in Wuhan. A drug called Kaletra, produced by AbbVie to treat HIV, is also being tested.
For more information and guidance, here are some helpful documents:
Guidance for Caregivers
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