The World has acted very fast to keep this viral outbreak under control but it looks like this isn’t working as new confirmed cases pop up daily and new countries report infections and outbreaks.
While there is cause for concern about how rapidly the Covid-19 strain of the coronavirus is spreading, and while we don’t yet know too much about it, being informed and taking precautions is our best form of defence.
Below is a data focused approach to understanding the Covid-19 coronavirus with concepts to help you protect your family and plan for what currently looks like the inevitable.
On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization was informed of an outbreak of “pneumonia of unknown cause” detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China – the seventh-largest city in China with 11 million residents.
As of 25 February, the outbreak has affected 80,000 people globally. In mainland China there have been 2,663 deaths among 77,658 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei. More than 12,000 people affected in China have already recovered.
Recently, the World Health Organization is telling countries to prepare as if COVID-19 is a pandemic, although it has not declared it one. As novel coronavirus outbreaks spread across a growing list of countries, Canadians are being warned to prepare for a possible pandemic.
A pandemic, in WHO terms, is “the worldwide spread of a disease”.
In a shift from previous messages, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged Monday that Canada may no longer be able to contain and limit the virus if it continues to spread around the world. She said governments, businesses and individuals should prepare for an outbreak or pandemic.
“We are coming to similar conclusions,” agreed Dr. Vera Etches, the City of Ottawa’s top health officer, on Monday. “It looks like it is going to be more and more difficult to contain this virus and it may well evolve into a pandemic. That would change the efforts to contain every last case and contact.”
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Compared to Other Pandemics and Enfluenzas
- Over history, there have been many diseases and pandemics, from the bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis (and killing many millions of people in three massive pandemics), to various common colds and flus that happen seasonal.
- The Spanish Flu from 1918 to 1920 was an influenza pandemic which infected 500 million around the world, or about 27% of the then world population of 1.9 billion. The death toll is estimated at 40-50 million and could be as high as 100 million, killing more people at that time than died during World War One.
- The Hong Kong Flu in 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated one million people worldwide, with a case-fatality ratio below 0.5%, and was caused by an H3N2 strain antigenic shift from the H2N2 flu virus. My Mother living in Edmonton Canada at the time caught the Hong Kong Flu and says it was like a normal flu just more severe.
- The current Norovirus from the species of Norwalk virus family, is quite common, with symptoms of fever, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. The Norovirus results in about 685 million cases a year globally and 200,000 deaths globally.From what it currently looks like, the Covid-19 Coronavirus has a higher case-fatality ratio than the Hong Kong Flu, but it’s really too early to tell as many other confounding factors are playing in.
Numbers and Data
- We don’t yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we won’t know until more data comes in. Another key unknown is how contagious the coronavirus is.
- The mortality rate is suggested by popular news sources is to be around 2% in the epicentre of the outbreak, Hubei province, and less than that elsewhere. These numbers are somewhat suspect and early, as confirmed data from Johns Hopkins suggested higher levels of case-fatality ratios.
- For comparison, the seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about 400,000 deaths each year globally.
- SARS had a death rate of more than 10%.
- Often viruses that spread easily tend to have a milder impact.
Covid-19 Coronavirus Symptoms
- Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever, shortness of breathe, and breathing difficulties.
- The virus can cause pneumonia.
- In severe cases there can be organ failure.
- As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system.
- Many of those who have died were already in poor health, and also had poor access to healthcare for more extreme cases.
China’s national health commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere.
Antibiotics won't stop the spread of Covid-19 as it is a virus.
Many countries have starting imposing travel bans, and this will likely continue.
Precautions - Steps to Help Protect Your Family
- Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
- Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
- One sensible step is to get the flu vaccine, which will reduce the burden on health services if the outbreak turns into a wider epidemic.
What to Think and What to Do?
Harvard University epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch is predicting the coronavirus "will ultimately not be containable" and, within a year, will infect somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of humanity, The Atlantic reports.
But don't be too alarmed. Many of those people, Lipsitch clarifies, won't have severe illnesses or even show symptoms at all, which is already the case for many people who have tested positive for the virus.
If this is accurate, there is a high chance you and your family will get infected by the Coronavirus Covid-19 strain in the coming year or two, and preparation is key.
Expect your household to be very tired, weak, and bedridden for a week, and also a major symptom is difficulty in breathing. Stock up on necessary items ahead of time.
There will likely be negative economic impact as countries impose travel and trade restrictions to try and halt or slow down the spread of Coronavirus Covid-19.
The biggest thing is be prepared, informed, but also don’t let the potential of this pandemic control your life or cause undue stress, especially at this early stage of understanding the Coronavirus Covid-19.
There is still much we don’t know about this strain.
Note that Covid-19 is short form for COronaVIrus Disease 2019.
As more information becomes available, ChatterBlock plans to do another big Covid-19 Coronavirus update in a month or twos time.
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