Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
The SARS-Cov-2 was identified as a type of coronavirus.
The World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic by March 2020.
Coronavirus disease affects the upper respiratory tract and the lower respiratory tract. This covers the nose, throat, sinuses, windpipe and lungs.
Hence, it is called a respiratory tract infection which spreads from person to person in the form of air droplets.
There can be different strains of a virus and it can also mutate.
A Chinese study has already found two strains, L and S. The L type is more prevalent in earlier stages and the S type strain is older.
It is possible that one strain is more likely to cause coronavirus cases.
However, every research right now is in process and research requires time.
Is Coronavirus like the flu?
Many people used to think that the coronavirus is just like the flu.
The definite number of coronavirus patients is harder to determine, given some are asymptomatic and some pass away without a test.
Still, about 0.2 percent of people with the seasonal flu died in 2019 and 6 percent with Coronavirus.
Therefore, Covid-19 is a more serious and deadly disease than seasonal flu.
Your doctor will check for Covid-19 if you have both fever and cough and you came in contact with an infected person recently.
Causes of Covid-19
A human needs to be in close contact with an animal that carries the infection, to get infected.
It was thought to be initially transferred from bats to humans in Wuhan’s wet market.
Coronavirus spreads from person to person through inhaled air droplets.
When a person with the virus, coughs, sneezes or talks they can release respiratory droplets that another person in close proximity can inhale. Once it goes into the respiratory tract, the virus can lead to an infection.
Coronavirus can also spread through surfaces.
If you touch a surface that has the virus and then touch your eyes or nose, you can get infected. However, there is little evidence about this.
Mainly the virus is passed on through inhaling respiratory droplets when you are less than 6 feet apart and those droplets landing on your eyes, nose and mouth.
The real cause of the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) is still unclear and efforts are being made to figure that out.
The three main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A high fever
- Persistent coughing that can last for an hour to 3 hours or regular coughing episodes throughout the day
- Loss of sense of smell and taste. Some people lose their ability to taste and smell when they are infected.
- Shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing
- Extreme fatigue
- Sore throat
- Muscle and body aches
- Chest pain
Covid-19 can lead to severe complications like pneumonia, septic shock cardiac arrest, liver issues, and even death.
If you are going through some serious symptoms like regular chest pain, breathing difficulty and low oxygen levels, confusion and not being able to wake up fully, then you should hurry to the hospital.
These complications are said to be due to cytokine storm.
This occurs when your immune system is triggered to release inflammatory proteins and cytokines in the blood due to an infection. This can result in organ damage.
This can further result in complications like cardiac arrest and even death.
People who are considered high-risk need to be more careful in this pandemic.
Health Factors that contribute to risks
If you have these health conditions or factors you are considered a high-risk person.
- History of heart diseases like cardiac arrest/li>
- Cancer and having undergone chemotherapy
- Chronic kidney disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Weak immune system due to organ transplant
Your condition can become severe if you contract coronavirus disease with these health factors.
Other health factors that may also lead to complications but not as severe include:
- Having asthma
- High blood pressure
- Cystic fibrosis
- Weak immune system due to HIV or bone marrow transplant
- Type 1 diabetes
- Liver diseases
The elderly are generally more at risk of developing severe complications through the Coronavirus.
However, anyone with these existing conditions is at high risk and should try to not contract the disease.
Diagnosis of Covid-19
You should contact your doctor if you have a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, a persistent cough and have lost your sense of smell and taste.
Chances are you have developed Covid-19.
You will have to get a swab test that will check for the virus in your upper respiratory tract.
Your doctor will first examine you and decide if you need a test or not. Your signs and symptoms will be self-explanatory.
Let your doctor know if you came in contact with an infected person recently.
A swab test will detect the virus in your nose and throat. A healthcare worker will take a sample from your nose or throat called the nasopharyngeal and throat swab respectively.
The swab goes up your nose and might be slightly uncomfortable. These will be further sent for a test in a laboratory.
A positive result indicates the presence of coronavirus hence, you are diagnosed with Coronavirus disease.
However, a negative result may indicate two things.
Either the virus is not present or there wasn’t enough sample to detect it.
Most test results usually take about 24 hours now while some can even give results within 15 minutes.
Other than the swab test, there is an antibody test.
The antibody test determines if you have contracted Coronavirus before.
You may think, why is this even necessary?
Well, it is because some people are asymptomatic.
The antibody test detects if there has been an exposure to the virus. Your body will already have antibodies against Coronavirus if you were exposed.
Prevention and Treatment
It is said to be 90 percent effective against Covid-19.
However, it still isn’t available to ordinary citizens and other countries.
The Covid-19 vaccine will be a sigh of relief for distressed humans in this pandemic.
But Pfizer’s vaccine isn’t the only one.
The Sinopharm vaccine by China’s National Pharmaceutical Group is said to be 86 percent effective against Coronavirus.
Though, the vaccine process can still take long.
Doctors and healthcare workers administer the antiviral drug remdesivir (Veklury) to treat Covid-19 affected patients above the age of 12. Remdesivir is given by a doctor’s consent to hospitalized patients and is not an over-the-counter drug.
Hence it should be used when prescribed.
Antibiotics are ineffective against Covid-19 as it is a viral disease.
Researchers are continually testing different medications to see their effectiveness.
Steroid medications like dexamethasone are being used by doctors on severely critical patients who require mechanical ventilation. It is originally used on patients with arthritis.
Other treatments include convalescent plasma. Plasma from a recovered patient is used to treat a critical one but its effectiveness is still unknown.
What to do if you have Covid-19?
Firstly, most coronavirus patients have mild symptoms that get cured within a time span of 2 to 3 weeks.
Your doctor may suggest you isolate yourself at home as soon as you have received your positive test result.
You can get pulse oximetry to monitor the oxygen levels in your blood. Moreover, follow the instructions given by the doctor to keep your signs and symptoms in check.
Keep your distance from your family and pets and avoid going outside.
If you take care of a family member affected with covid, try to sanitize their room, once they are cured. Also wear a mask within the house and maintain your distance from them.
You can get out of your isolation period as per your doctor’s guidelines. It mostly takes around 2 to 3 weeks but it can vary. You may be asked to get another test to confirm you are cured of Covid-19.
You will need to go to the hospital if your oxygen levels drop low, you have extreme difficulty breathing and your lips are turning blue. If any of your symptoms worsen, contact your doctor.
During your isolation take lots of rest and consume healthy food and fluids.
One essential measure to save yourself from contracting Covid-19 is wearing a mask.
You not only save yourself but also the people around you.
Wearing a mask can protect you from coming into contact with someone’s infected respiratory droplets.
Moreover, it can protect others as well, if you are asymptomatic and go by your day as usual.
An N-95 mask is said to be more effective in preventing transmission of the air droplets but you can use any standard mask with a filter.
You should also wash your hands regularly.
It is recommended to wash with soap for at least 20 seconds thoroughly. You should carry a hand sanitizer to use after touching surfaces.
Keep your distance from people. Avoid hugging or handshaking. Stand at least 6 feet apart.
These preventive measures might look extreme right now but these can help save the lives of you and your loved ones in this pandemic.
Follow the SOP’s and save lives, yours and others.