As we all know, the world is now host to a disease called Covid-19. This disease has affected more than 200 countries and is continuously spreading across the world. It is from a large family of corona viruses which can cause illness in animals and humans. The Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. Prior to this, there have been 2 recent epidemics namely SARS & MERS. However, neither of these epidemics affected as many people as the Covid-19 strain. They were much better controlled due to early symptom identification and the affected were quickly quarantined to reduce spread.
This new virus was unknown before the outbreak began in December 2019. The source of the virus is said to be a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, which sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds. The animal source has not yet been identified but the host is thought to be bats. Back in 2019 a doctor in Wuhan’s central hospital, Li Wenliang warned that a new disease similar to SARS could be breaking out. The research continues to try to completely identify the source. Most of the corona viruses affect humans through the respiratory system. Covid-19 is more dangerous than SARS, because in the case of the SARS virus it immediately went to the throat and multiplied quickly thereby exhibiting symptoms much faster. However in the case of the new coronavirus they replicate slowly and hence the symptoms occur much later while they continue to infect a lot more people. The virus uses the spike protein to get into the cell and takes complete control of the host cell.
For the first 8 – 10 weeks, it was primarily limited to China with very few cases out of the containment area. After this period it spread to other countries and within weeks the total number of cases became more than a million across the globe. The virus has so far caused 215,000+ deaths. In many countries, the number of cases has doubled every 2 days. It is spreading at an alarming rate. The symptoms for Covid-19 are similar to that of the common cold while the infected experience fever, cough and shortness of breath. It can even lead to pneumonia, multiorgan failure and SARS leading to death. The people who are mainly affected are the elderly and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer and or high blood pressure. 9% of people with diabetes have died with the virus and around 8% with high blood pressure have passed on. Covid-19 has affected the west more than the east. Only in China, there are many cases. Otherwise, the east is quite safe. The precautionary measures taken are very different. Let us take 2 examples: Italy and Japan.
Italy has the second oldest population in the world. Italian youngsters tend to interact a lot with their elders as they often live together. Italians tend to work and meet in large gatherings and thus carry the virus home with them when they get infected. Then they spread it to their elders. So these elders were infected and led to a high death rate. Italy also started the lockdown very late and the precautionary measures only came into place after many deaths and infection spread.
In Japan the main way to greet others is a bow instead of the traditional handshake. This reduced the spread of the virus. Also, they constantly wash their hands and keep them sanitized while also gargling with disinfectant mouthwash on a regular basis. They also closed all schools 2 weeks before their spring break and ordered all shops and restaurants etc to keep sanitizers in front of the shop. The widespread use of face masks has also helped reduce the spread of the virus.
On 8th January 2020, Li Wenliang contracted the virus while treating a patient. Li did not respond to treatment and died on 7th February 2020. He is being hailed as the whistleblower for the Covid-19 disease.
Worldwide, the impact on the economy has been significant due to the current virus spread. The Indian economy is expected to witness a sharp contraction of 4 – 5% in the year FY20-21 because of the coronavirus. The informal sectors of the economy is expected to significantly go through reduction due to the impact on construction, manufacturing and tourism & hospitality.
The infection curve shows the number of infections over a period of time. A steeper curve shows that there are many infections in a short period of time. A quick ramp up and a steep fall are indicated in the case of the coronavirus. The fall happens once the population has developed “herd” immunity. This is bad if hundreds & thousands of people are infected at the same time and they all go to the hospital at the same time leading to shortage of beds, medical equipment and medical staff. However, if we flatten the curve we will have the same number of infections but in a longer period of time. This will help us deal with the infections in a much more successful manner.
The actual cure for Covid-19 has not been discovered but an important practice to prevent the spread of the virus is social distancing. It means that we must keep at least 3 feet distance from others and not come in close contact with anyone. We must keep washing our hands and wear masks when we go out in public and try not to leave the house unless necessary. If we are to defeat the Covid-19 we must be vigilant and continuously maintain cleanliness using sanitizers and take bath at least twice a day. Bottomline – Flatten the curve!