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The Simple Facts on COVID-19

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

Noreen I. Ghartey

Research Assistant, Healthcare Policy

The Coronavirus Disease 2019, COVID-19 for short is a respiratory disease caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2). The outbreak is reported to have begun in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019 at the Wuhan Seafood Wholesale Market.


Based on analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2, the most likely origins of the virus would be bats and possibly pangolins, armadillo-like mammals found in Asia and some parts of Africa. These animals have coronaviruses with very similar structures to the SARS-CoV-2. Further research suggests the virus either evolved to its current pathogenic state through natural selection in a nonhuman host and then jumped to humans, or a nonpathogenic version of the virus jumped from an animal host into humans and evolved to its current pathogenic state. However, there remain no documented cases of direct bat-human transmission or pangolin-human transmission for patient zero leading some to suggest an intermediate host was likely. Other outliners are that the virus may have been genetically engineered.


There have been unfounded theories of the virus being an adverse effect of the new 5G technology. However, scientists maintain that idea of a connection between COVID-19 and 5G is biologically impossible. Thus, such disruptive conspiracy theories ought not to be encouraged. Viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks. COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. People can also be infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their eyes, mouth or nose.


COVID-19 is highly infectious and is mainly spread during close contact with an infected person and by small droplets produced when infected people cough, sneeze or talk. People may also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their faces as the virus can survive on some surfaces up to 72 hours.


Basic strategies for preventing transmission of the disease include maintaining overall good personal hygiene, regular hand washing, using alcohol-based sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol, avoiding touching face with unwashed hands, practicing good respiratory hygiene like coughing or sneezing into a tissue and disposing the tissue directly into a waste container or covering mouth and nose with a bent elbow when coughing or sneezing, and regular disinfection of surfaces. Maintaining social distancing approximately 6ft remains an effective way to prevent the spread of the virus.


In addition, to these precautionary measures, it highly advisable stay home at home and avoid social gathering and other public spaces. Avoiding public spaces and only going out for essential purposes reduces the probability of the virus being transmitted from one host to another. In the event that one has to go out, it is encouraged to have a face mask or other protective covering. Wearing a face mask helps prevent infected people from passing on the infection. It also prevents the likelihood of uninfected persons contracting the virus.


Those who may already have the infection are advised to self isolate and wear a surgical mask should they have to be around others. Masks are also recommended for those taking care of infected persons and for healthy people if they are at a high risk of contracting the disease. Healthcare providers taking care of someone who may be infected are recommended to use standard precautions, contact precautions, and eye protection.


The efforts to eradicate this virus involves each and every one. All are urged to practice safe social distancing and adhere to recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authorities.


For more information on best practices during this pandemic, please visit the WHO and CDC resource pages.