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With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, people have been urged to practise social distancing. (Courtesy of @elleindia)

A coronavirus compendium

We know you already know all of this,
but it doesn’t hurt to  refresh our memories
By Shanghetaa Alfred 

COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic, or global outbreak, and health officials and politicians are pleading with us to be mindful of the risks and ramifications of our actions, and to modify our behaviour accordingly. Here’s what we need to remember.

THE VIRUS

Based on the research done by the World Health Organization, the Corona virus also known as COVID-19 is part of a family of viruses that emerged in 2019. Coronaviruses cause such illnesses as the common cold and influenza to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

COVID-19 is similar to SARS-CoV and was transmitted from animals to people; this transmission is called zoonotic. The exact animal to transmit COVID-19 has not yet been found, and there has been speculation that it came from a bat or pangolin, but, as far as WHO is concerned, research is still ongoing.

 

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This is the virus that has been invading people’s lungs and causing, among other things, difficulty breathing.  (WHO)

 

The virus is known as a novel virus because it is new, but its symptoms are common. Viruses usually get their name from their structure. The protein spikes (see the drawing above) make the virus look like a crown; hence the name “corona,” which is Latin word for “crown.”  

The virus, and the disease it causes, are now called COVID-19. The viruses (Corona) have been named for their genetic structure to assist the development of diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines, while diseases are usually named to start a discussion on disease prevention, spread, transmissibility, severity and treatment. 

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that can be transmitted through droplets that are produced when people cough or sneeze. A person can pick up the virus from an infected person or if they touch an infected surface. 

 

THE SYMPTOMS

People infected with COVID-19 may not know they have the disease, as the symptoms are similar to those of a cold or the flu. Common symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after being exposed to the disease. However, there is also a strong possibility that many people don’t show symptoms, or are asymptomatic, and still may be able to infect others.

 

THE ACTIONS

Depending on where you live, the procedures may be different. In Alberta, people are directed to use the COVID-19 online self-assessment before calling the Health Link line at 811, where they will be directed to the next steps. 

Self-isolate as much as possible and wear a mask if you go to a clinic or hospital, to keep yourself from infecting others. A nurse will ask you a few questions, ranging from whether you have travelled recently to if you have been in contact with a potentially infected person. 

If you are out of the province or the country, check a reliable source to obtain information, and see where you can get tested for symptoms. People are advised not to go to hospitals or clinics, where they might infect other people who may be especially vulnerable. If you need to go, call ahead to let the staff prepare for your arrival.

Below are links to reliable sources to obtain information. 

 

THE RISK 

Health officials have said that the disease is less deadly than SARS. They are still not able to pinpoint the exact category of people who are more at risk. However, anecdotal evidence shows that the elderly and those with underlying health issues are more likely at risk. Most people younger than 35 may get mild symptoms or none at all and quickly recover – though there have been severe cases among people in their 20s and 30s. That said, young people have a higher chance of being carriers of the illness without having symptoms and of spreading it to people who are older and have reduced immune systems. 

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Are you under 35 years old? If so, how is coronavirus going to affect you? … Coronavirus is spreading fast around the world. The most vulnerable group appears to be the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. But some of us are experiencing lockdown as schools, universities, cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs and gyms close. … All of this is taking a toll on people’s mental health. So, we have some tips on how to cope. Swipe right to find out. … Leave any questions in the comments section below & we’ll try and get them answered. 😊 … #coronavirus #coronavírus #coronavirüs #corona #covid #covid19 #bbcminute #bbcnews #covid2019 #mentalhealth #health #mentalhealthawareness

A post shared by BBC Minute (@bbcminute) on

 

THE PRECAUTIONS

Many of us fail to realize the importance of personal hygiene, and in ordinary times we tend to become a bit lax about it. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to remind us that cleanliness is important to our health, but human nature being what it is …

Because a situation like this stresses the importance of personal hygiene, below are the steps we should follow to ensure our personal hygiene  – and curb the spread of COVID-19. 

  1. Frequently wash your hands, and take at least 20 seconds to scrub and wash with soap. Sanitize your hands with a gel or spray that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol when you have to. But remember that it is always better to wash your hands, because you are literally removing the virus, as well as killing it. Follow the #SAFEHANDS challenge started by WHO to see how people wash their hands to bring awareness to the situation.

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    The after-effect of washing hands: sparkly and fresh. (@sarashakeel)

  2. When coughing or sneezing cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or a tissue, and then throw the tissue away in a plastic bag immediately. Wearing a mask is not necessary if you are not sick. (So please stop hoarding them; medical workers need them badly.)

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    Batman was practicing personal hygiene all along! (@mattyperry4)

  3. Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough, because the disease is infectious and the droplets from a cough or sneeze can travel a metre before they land on something … which you don’t want to be you.
  4. Practise social distancing, as this will help flatten the curve of the number of people getting infected. Stand at least six metres, or two feet, from each other if you are required to be in the same room with someone. Remember, either of you can be infected but not showing symptoms yet.

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    Sanitize first, save me later.  (The Humorists)

  5. Bathe or shower regularly especially when you come back from outdoors, to remove any viruses you may have been exposed to while you were outside. 
  6. Do not repeat clothing. Put all clothes in the laundry after wearing, because the virus tends to travel with us and, if we are not careful with our clothes, we can contract or spread the virus to others. Although most countries are restricting movement – and some have gone into lockdown – there are people who still have to go to work, and they need to be extra-careful with their outside apparel.

 

THE CURVE

This means a bump in a graph shows information on the number of people that have the virus and how fast it has been spreading since it first came to light. Flattening the curve means lowering the number of cases that are active at a given time, to allow hospitals, and various other officials time to plan a response.

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Stay at home and there will be a better chance of flattening the curve #flattenthecurve.  (The Washington Post)

 

THE HOARDERS

Many countries have been running out of essentials because of panic buying. Here in Edmonton, people are hoarding things like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bottled water, frozen food, tinned goods, pasta, rice and root vegetables, even though officials have repeatedly said that the supply is good and holding, and there is no reason to stock up as if the apocalypse were coming. We still can go shopping for groceries because, despite the restricted movement, convenience stores and supermarkets will stay open. But we need to be mindful of people who live pay cheque to pay cheque and can’t afford to hoard goods.

Also, excessive buying of face masks is neither recommended nor necessary. Though the mask protects you from getting or expelling the virus through droplets from a cough or sneeze, the disease can still gain entry through your eyes, or ride home on your hands. We also tend to touch our faces a lot to adjust the mask, which can be very risky.

Perhaps more important, health officials and people who are in dire need of masks are running out. Therefore, if you need to buy, buy a small amount and leave the rest for the health officials and for people truly in need.

Below, Dr Shunmay Yeung, of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine talks about the usage of face masks:

 

THE RACISM

Many are blaming the Chinese government for not immediately reporting the disease, and Chinese people for flying out of the country when the disease was first circulating. We fail to remember that all those people are human and their fight-or-flight response was to travel to a safer area for their family members’ and friends’ sake. There is no reason to boycott businesses or to look side-eyed at Asian people. In times like this, we all need to stand together to fight the disease and not use this as an opportunity to be xenophobic and throw racist slurs at someone.

Remember, H1N1 started in Mexico, and the so-called Spanish flu is believed to have begun in the U.S. midwest. Anyone can get sick.

 

THE PLAN

  1. Don’t panic, but be alert of the ongoing situation. Panic can spread faster than the disease.
  2. Stay at home and self-isolate. It may seem unfair when you are healthy, but it gives the disease less chance of spreading.
  3. Eat well, exercise and get enough sleep.  
  4. Seniors and people with weak immune systems need extra protection; they are at the highest risk if they contract the disease. Check-in regularly with family and friends. Helping others helps with anxiety 
  5. Limit news intake, especially if it doesn’t come from a credible source. You don’t have to constantly seek information, but do listen to the health experts, who can help navigate the path ahead. 
  6. Stay in touch. Find a way to talk to your loved ones and talk about how you feel whether it is through video chats, phone calls or email. Reaching out can help you and them in these tough times. 

 

THE PANIC

We are all in this together and, when in doubt, search for a reliable source to obtain your news. The situation is changing quickly. Keep checking reliable sources for the latest update. (We will keep this story updated with the latest info as it breaks.) 

And let’s take care of each other.

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kindness is the best practice in this situation.  (@decade2doodles)

 

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