On January 30th, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. It was official: We’re facing a pandemic.
Since then, the world experienced massive-scale lockdowns and a range of unprecedented restrictions on nearly every aspect of normal life. The surge in COVID-19 research helped reveal more about the nature of the virus and how it spreads. Further research remains a global priority.
In this blog post, you’ll find an overview of what we now know about this infectious pathogen.
What Is COVID-19 or Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is an umbrella term for a group of viruses found in animals and humans. In humans, coronavirus can cause acute respiratory illnesses. Both the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2012 resulted from a spread of coronavirus. COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease caused by the mutation of a strain of coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.
How Did It Start?
It’s not clear how SARS-CoV-2 mutated into the virulent version the world is currently struggling to contain. The Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, noted the first cluster of COVID-19 infections in early 2020.
Uncertainty and speculation clouds the COVID-19 origin story, except for one aspect: Scientists and researchers from around the world agree that the virus originated in a bat. It’s likely it then spread to an intermediary host (which could have been animal or human) and then mutated into the version responsible for the ongoing pandemic. Research surrounding this continues.
To date, COVID-19 has spread to almost every country in the world infecting 4.8 million people, and counting. More than 300,000 people have died from COVID-19.
How Does It Spread?
COVID-19 is highly contagious. When someone speaks, sneezes, or coughs small droplets are expelled into the air. A person can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets spread from someone infected by the virus.
These droplets also land on surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, or handrails. The virus spreads when people touch infected surfaces and then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes.
Preventative measures to stop the spread of the virus include frequent and thorough handwashing, wearing a face mask covering your mouth and nose, and maintaining physical distance from others – coined as the term social distancing.
What’s the Cure for COVID-19?
There currently is no cure for COVID-19. Efforts to design a vaccine against the virus are underway across the globe.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, and fatigue. Most people who display symptoms recover from the virus without needing hospitalization. Yet, the elderly and people with low immunity are vulnerable to developing severe breathing difficulties and will need intense medical care to survive if they contract COVID-19.
Those with mild symptoms are advised to self-isolate at home for at least 14 days as this is the incubation period of the virus.
How the World Is Responding
Across the globe, governments have responded in many ways to try and deal with the outbreak of the pandemic. Remote work is now the norm. So is curbside pickups. Schools have been closed and in the few countries opting to reopen, a phased approach and strict physical distancing principles are being implemented. Wearing a face mask is the new normal.
The mental health effects of prolonged isolation, social distancing, and uncertainty about the future are far-reaching.
The economic devastation from the pandemic is unfolding at a disconcerting pace. Governments all over the world are putting financial relief measures in place as society braces itself to tough out what lies ahead. The mental health effects of prolonged isolation, social distancing, and uncertainty about the future are also far-reaching. Alongside economic strain, concern over our (and the next) generation’s collective mental health is also growing.
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