Coronavirus: what is it, causes, symptoms and prevention

Are there reasons to be afraid of a Covid-19 pandemic? As of the writing of this article (February 28, 2020), 82,104 coronavirus cases have been reported and 2,744 have died worldwide. 

Coronavirus: what is it, causes, symptoms and prevention
And it is that although practically all cases are in China, the virus has crossed borders and the fear of a global pandemic is being more damaging to society than the germ itself.

Next, we will analyze the nature of this virus, detailing both the causes of contagion and its symptoms, as well as the real severity of the virus. Because as we will see later, the coronavirus is not much more dangerous than that of the flu.

In fact, the flu kills nearly half a million people each year. Where's the news? Where's the fear? The difference between the Wuhan coronavirus and the flu coronavirus is basically that the former is novelty and the latter is not . And fear, in the field of public health, is our worst enemy.

What is the coronavirus?

Wuhan's coronavirus, also dubbed Covid-19, is a virus in the Coronavirus family that has recently emerged in China for reasons that remain unclear. Either way, it is a new virus that infects the cells of the lungs, causing pneumonia with severe symptoms.

The problem of the virus is not its lethality, which, as we will see later, is not higher than that of other common diseases. It is his ease of transmission between people and the fact that he is an “unknown” to our immune system that causes him to spread panic around the world.

What must be made very clear is that the coronavirus will not cause a mass extinction, that young and / or healthy people do not have to worry, since the greatest enemy we are facing is not the virus itself, but the virus itself. state of alarm that are inciting the media and the "fake news" and hoaxes that are spreading without control over the network.

How is it spread?

The problem with the coronavirus is that it meets the ideal conditions to cause a global pandemic, and we are not talking about deaths, we are talking about the number of cases. And it is that the transmission between people of the virus is possible and, in addition, it follows the most effective way of contagion for viruses: the air.

Coronavirus is transmitted between people through respiratory droplets that an infected person generates by speaking, coughing, or sneezing. These "saliva droplets" are microscopic and carry the virus through the air.

Once expelled into the air, these droplets can either fall directly on a healthy person or deposit on inanimate objects. In the event that they fall on a person, they may inhale them directly and reach their lungs, thus opening the doors to the virus to their respiratory system, or they may go to their hands or other parts of the body and then, in In case the person bites his nails, puts his hands to his face, scratches his eyes, etc., he can also allow the virus to enter his body.

But what must be clear is that these respiratory particles cannot travel in the air more than 1 meter, as they end up falling quickly to the ground by the simple action of gravity.

And another way, which is the one that generates the most fear, is that it can be spread by touching objects contaminated with the particles with the virus. But we must qualify this. And it is that while it is true that the virus can be transmitted through coins, tables, doorknobs, credit cards, armrests, etc., it resists very little time outside the human body. In fact, within a few hours of being on one of these objects, it dies.

So yes, it is quite contagious , but just like the common cold or flu. It is not an extremely contagious "super" virus. The chances of transmission are no greater than that of other viral diseases that follow this route of transmission.

The coronavirus is neither transmitted by pets, nor by mosquito bites, nor can we be infected after receiving a package or letter from China.

What symptoms do you have?

The coronavirus infects the cells of the lungs and begins to damage them, so the disease has an aggressive symptomatology but not very different from that of pneumonia: difficulty breathing, headache , fever, chills, general malaise, weakness and fatigue , runny nose, diarrhea... 

And here comes the important thing: in 98% of cases, the problems end here. The hospitalization of those affected should not be cause for alarm, since people with pneumonia are also admitted. It is the best way to control symptoms, prevent complications from occurring, and, very importantly, reduce the risk that the virus will continue to spread.

Avoiding contagion through hospitalization of those affected does not mean that it will be responsible for an apocalypse, but health systems cannot expose themselves to all hospitals being filled with people with this disease, since they could not offer services to all world.

Because although it is normal that it is scary to hear and know that a new virus is spreading at great speed and that some people die, it must be made clear that serious complications (including death) are reserved almost exclusively for the risk population that, As with the flu, they are the elderly and the immunosuppressed.

Is it very lethal?

No. The coronavirus is not very lethal. At least, not more than a flu. And it is that the mortality it presents is 2.3%. That is, out of every 100 infected, about 2 people die. But do we know what the flu is? The flu has a mortality of, although it depends on the virus that circulates in each season, 1.9%.

From influenza, millions of cases are diagnosed worldwide each year and between 300,000 and 600,000 people die. This happens every year but the alarms do not go on, as healthy young people do not have any problems with the flu, they resolve on their own.

Therefore, the coronavirus is not very lethal. Very lethal are diseases like Ebola, with a lethality that can be up to 90%. A 2.3% is nothing in comparison, since the majority of deaths from the coronavirus have been in the elderly, immunosuppressed, asthmatics, diabetics, cancer patients.

For 98% of the population, coronavirus disease will be no more serious than pneumonia, and they will recover without major complications after a few days. We repeat, what is doing more damage is fear, not the virus.

Can it be prevented and treated?

Prevention is possible and, although there is no cure, treatments can be offered to reduce its severity and prevent the development of complications. When it comes to prevention, even though it is difficult since it is transmitted through the air, there are ways to reduce the risk of being infected.

Continuously wash your hands with soap and water, avoid crowds if you live in a place where cases have been diagnosed, wear a mask, do not touch too many objects on the street and on public transport, do not go near people who are coughing or sneezing... It is also important to remember that currently there is no vaccine and that despite what has been said, pneumonia vaccines do not work.

And when it comes to treatment, while there is no cure, this should not set off alarms. There is no cure for any viral disease. We are still not able to treat a common cold or the flu. In the case of coronavirus disease, the body itself must be allowed to neutralize the virus.

What hospitals offer are supportive therapies to alleviate symptoms and reduce the risk of developing serious complications, as the risk is obviously there. But the treatments offered in hospitals, keeping the patient under observation, monitoring clinical signs and administering antiviral drugs are the best strategy to help the body eliminate the virus.

And in the vast majority of cases, as long as these hospital aids can be offered, the body will overcome the disease. Therefore, seeing that governments are closing air connections with other countries or recommending not to go out should not alarm us. 

They do this not because it is a very deadly pathogen, but to minimize the number of cases and thus ensure that those who become ill can receive the necessary medical support.

So is there reason to be alarmed?

It is totally normal for us to feel fear, as it is a natural survival response. But among this uncertainty, we must base ourselves on what we know for sure about the virus, and that is that it is objectively no more dangerous than a simple flu. We have all had the flu once and nothing has happened. With this virus, the same.

In addition, it should be borne in mind that the media is trying to sell and "take advantage" of this novelty and that the strategies and recommendations of governments are not because this virus is going to kill us all, but because it is necessary to minimize the number of cases so that all people who are going to become infected can receive the necessary treatment to ensure that their body resolves the disease on its own.

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