The covid-19 epidemic has been spreading exponentially faster with each passing week. Right now, there are more than 150,000 cases worldwide and over 5,000 deaths. In the US alone, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of cases in the second week of march, jumping from around 100 cases to more than 1,200 cases, a twelvefold increase in just a week.
It’s very much likely that these numbers will keep increasing in the next weeks and maybe months, until we have a definite course of action to contain its spread even further, so it’s better to prepare and be safe rather than sorry and the best way to prepare is getting the correct and up to date information, and for that purpose corona Watch has been created. So let’s begin accessing the situation since it’s outbreak in China up to now.
What is Covid 19?
Covid 19 is a virus from the same family as the SARS (Severe acute respiratory Syndrome) and the MERS-cov (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), two highly transmissible and pathogenic viruses that emerged in humans at the beginning of the 21st century. Both viruses likely originated in bats, and genetically diverse coronaviruses that are related to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV were discovered in bats worldwide.
The covid-19 branch likely originated in Hunan Seafood Wholesale market in Wuhan, located in the province of Hubei in China at the end of December,2019. The coronavirus infection is a zoonotic disease, being almost certain that it has originated from bats just as his 2 predecessors from the early 2000’s.
Coronavirus in the usa
The first diagnosed case of the disease in the american territory occurred on January 19, 2020, as a 35-year-old man presented to an urgent care clinic in Snohomish County, Washington, with a 4-day history of cough and subjective fever. On checking into the clinic, the patient put on a mask and seated quietly in the waiting room. After waiting approximately 20 minutes, he was taken into an examination room and underwent evaluation by a provider. He disclosed that he had returned to Washington State on January 15 after traveling to visit family in Wuhan, China. The patient stated that he had seen a health alert from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the novel coronavirus outbreak in China and, because of his symptoms and recent travel, decided to see a health care provider.
Given the patient’s travel history, the local and state health departments were immediately notified. Together with the urgent care clinician, the Washington Department of Health notified the CDC Emergency Operations Center. Although the patient reported that he had not spent time at the Huanan seafood market and reported no known contact with ill persons during his travel to China, CDC staff concurred with the need to test the patient for 2019-nCoV on the basis of current CDC “persons under investigation” case definitions. On January 20, 2020, the CDC confirmed that the patient tested positive for 2019-nCoV.
Coronavirus rapid growth
From them on, the virus has spread at a lightning pace throughout the world and the us. Currently, the country has over 1.4 million cases confirmed, and growing faster and faster by each passing day, with 84.000 deaths up to date.
The Trump administration has imposed travel restriction on a number of countries considered to be the current centers for proliferation of the virus, such as Iran, China and the majority of European countries.
Although it has started in China, The Who (World Health organization) has declared Europe as the new epicenter of the disease, since the cases in China have been decreasing steadily while some European countries have completely lost control over it – especially Italy and Spain.
Coronavirus Outbreak: Death rate and associated risks
It has been widely divulged the the cover-19 has a much lesser lethality than other similar viruses that have caused epidemics in the last few year, such as SAR’S and Ebola. While the first has a 10% death rate and the second an astounding 30% death rate, cover has a quite “modest” 3.4% rate.
Also, the greatest risk lies in a very specific demographic: older people with over 80 years and who may have some underlying health issues such as Hypertension, diabetes, pulmonar malfunction, heart failure, etc., in which the death rate may increase up to 15%. In people that doesn’t belong to these groups the chance of dying as a consequence of the covid-19 might be much lower than the 3.4%.
With these numbers in mind, the first impulse we get is to ask ourselves: Why is this virus causing so much panic around the world while other potentially more devastating viruses in the past haven’t even elicited any attention from many of us?
The fact of the matter is that Covid-19 is highly transmissible and, at the first stages of the infection, the patient doesn’t even feel any symptoms, which means he goes about his normal daily life and may infect quite a bit of people before the virus finally hits hard. This is very different from the ebola, for example, a very aggressive virus that left the patient completely bed ridden right from the beginning.
This high transmission rate sets the tone for the scenario we are seeing in the usa and all over the world, with number of cases increasing exponentially every few days. The problem with this is that with a lot of people infected, there will be around 20% that will need intensive medical care, and if the total number of cases is too high, that means that there will not be enough hospital placements to treat all patients adequately, resulting in many more indirect deaths due to the covid-19.
Up to date, the official health authorities have said that it will take close to a year if not a bit more to succesfully create a vaccine that will work against covid-19. This erases any possibility of a short term definitive solution, mainly because of the mutable nature of the virus, with increase the necessity of research and testing.
In the mean term, we will probably see more rigid measures all over the world such as the one that has been taken in Italia and China, with quarantines becoming a necessary evil to prevent the number of infections getting to an unbearable level.