The Pandemic That Upended the World: Everything You Need to Know About COVID-19

April 2020. The world had gone eerily silent. The streets were empty; popular tourist destinations and religious sites were laid bare. It was almost as though someone had switched everything off. The news stations whipped themselves into a frenzy. Words like ‘epidemic’, ‘death toll’ and ‘social distancing’ danced across headlines everywhere. Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, had the planet in its grip. The world retreated, hiding indoors and watched with bated breath.

How did we get here?

Background

The cases began in 2019, when three patients in Wuhan, China with pneumonia were detected to be infected with a novel coronavirus. By February 2020 there were 50,000 patients with the coronavirus. The virus quickly spread across China, sparking an epidemic, resulting in over 81,740 cases and more than 3300 deaths. This prompted a lockdown in many regions of the country.

However, the measures were too little too late. The virus was already beginning to spread. By January 2020, there were other confirmed cases from three other countries: Thailand, Japan and South Korea. All the cases were determined to have been exported from China.

By mid-March 2020, there were 167515 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the world. According to WHO, there were 6606 deaths and the global risk level was ‘Very High’. Italy, Spain, America, and the United Kingdom were facing severe healthcare crises with a shortage of healthcare workers and a high death rate.  

The epidemic had become a pandemic.

How Did It Spread So Fast?

The virus spread outward from China at an alarming rate. The first wave of coronavirus reports was a result of imported cases-people who had traveled to China had carried the virus back with them. This quickly changed, as people ignored orders for home quarantining and the virus began to spread among the general population. The second wave of cases surged due to the local transmission. The WHO reports show that a majority of the cases in the West Pacific region, the Middle East and North America were locally transmitted. 

In many cases, people ignored the warnings by local authorities and continued to travel and socialize. As a result, the virus spread through people who were unaware that they were carrying it. On the other hand, many people downplayed the risk of coronavirus, treating it like the common cold. All these factors led to the virus spreading across local populations like a wildfire.

What Makes COVID-19 So Dangerous?

Coronavirus is frightening precisely because we know so little about it.  Agencies like the CDC and WHO have all admitted that very little is known about the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2. In fact, medical authorities are still unaware of the origin of the coronavirus. The virus is known to infect bats and wildlife, but it is still unknown how it was transmitted to humans.

Another reason why the coronavirus is so threatening is because of how quickly and insidiously the virus spreads from person to person. It is an acute respiratory illness and can spread among the population rapidly.

It is transmitted through droplets, which means if someone infected with the virus coughs or sneezes around you, and you inhale the droplets, you could become infected. Also, if you touched something contaminated with the virus, and then touched your nose or mouth without washing your hands, you might give that virus an entry point into your body.

The most frightening thing about the virus is something we do know. The coronavirus has a death rate that is 10 times greater than the regular flu. This makes the coronavirus much deadlier than the common cold which is also caused by a virus. The risk of dying increases exponentially with age and the presence of pre-existing respiratory illnesses.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, dry cough and tiredness. However, many people develop no symptoms and are asymptomatic carriers. This is even more dangerous because they can unknowingly pass the disease on to others.

Other coronavirus symptoms include:

  • Generalized body pain.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Runny nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Diarrhea.

Around 80% of the people can recover from the virus without getting seriously ill. However, others can get progressively sicker and develop pneumonia and breathing problems. Older people, smokers, and healthcare workers are at the most risk of getting infected with the coronavirus and getting critically ill.

Treatment and Prevention

There is no specific medicine that can treat COVID-19. Healthcare professionals encourage treating it like the flu–get plenty of rest and sleep, drink lots of fluids and keep yourself warm and clean. Isolate yourself from others to prevent them from catching the virus. Monitor your symptoms and contact your nearest hospital if your symptoms get worse.

The virus has an incubation period of 14 days so you need to stay indoors and isolate yourself for two full weeks. 

Prevention is the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Stay inside unless you absolutely have to. When out in public, wear a mask and sneeze or cough into your elbow. Wash your hands with an antibacterial soap frequently. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean and washed. If you feel ill or unwell, contact your physician immediately.

Most importantly, practice social distancing; maintain a distance of 3 feet or 1 meter when interacting with others. Social distancing and staying indoors is the most effective way to quickly flatten the curve and slow the spread of the disease. Preventive measures are the key to beating the virus and saving lives.

Quarantining, self-isolation and social distancing have been proven to be effective against the spread of coronavirus. Thanks to their lockdown, China managed to survive the epidemic, with 77,279 recoveries, as of April. Other countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and even France have successfully contained the virus, by taking strict measures. These countries have proved that successfully managing the virus is indeed possible.

Conclusion

Although everyone has been blindsided by the coronavirus, panicking is the worst thing you can do right now. Self-care is the most important way you can prevent contracting the virus. Staying alert and aware can save your life, and those of people around you. Stay healthy and take care of yourself and those with you. Most importantly, don’t lose hope. It is almost impossible not to despair in such dark times but remember: this too shall pass.

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