If someone had told me that a time would come where we’d be forced to walk around with facemasks strapped to our faces I would shout ‘cap!’ at how outrageous that sounded. This has however come to pass and we are living in the said dark days.
Just as 2019 was drawing to a close, the universe sort deep inside its sleeves, shouted UNO! and delt mankind his biggest challenge yet since World War II – COVID19. It seemed to hold up high the sign ‘never say never’ in shimmering lights as the world dove into a mega economic, social and serious health crisis.
It has been a little over a year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported and it is only fair that we talked about it. Let us break it down, maybe bust a few myths and learn a thing or two about this novel virus that turned the world upside down.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a group of viruses, most of which cause infections of the respiratory tract, nose or sinuses. Those that infect humans include;
- MERS-COV which causes the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
- SARS-COV which causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
- 229E, NL63, OC43, HKU1 which cause mild upper respiratory tract infections and most of the common colds we experience year in, year out.
In December of 2020 a new type was reported in Wuhan China -Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 or SARS-CoV-2 for short. Due to global travel the virus spread fast and in March the following year, WHO declared the virus outbreak a pandemic, sending the world into a frenzy with lockdowns being the new order of events.
What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease or COVID19 is the disease caused SARS-CoV-2 –the CO stands for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year 2019. This is an infectious respiratory tract infection affecting the sinuses, nose, throat, trachea and lungs.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The incubation period of the virus is about 14 days during or after which signs or symptoms may start showing. They range from mild to severe and they include;
- Dry cough
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- General body weakness
- Loss of smell and taste
- Pink eye or conjunctivitis
- Loss of movement or speech
Asymptomatic or mild cases may require home based care and self-isolation to make complete recovery with severe cases calling for hospitalization. Follow this link to get a more elaborate guideline by MOH – Home Based Isolation Guideline
Immunocompromised people i.e. those with weakened immune system are at a greater risk of serious illness. These risk groups include
- Infants and the elderly
- People on certain medication e.g. immunosuppressants
- Chronic conditions e.g. hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease
- Respiratory conditions e.g. asthma, COPD
- Heart conditions e.g. heart failure, coronary heart disease
- Obesity etc.
The virus can be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets suspended in the air after an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. It can also be spread if one touches contaminated surface and proceeds to touch their mouth, eyes or nose. In October, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC declared that, though chances are slim, airborne transmission is also possible.
Testing and Diagnosis
Suspected COVID-19 infection is confirmed using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction RT-PCR using nasopharyngeal or recently, anal samples.Rapid antigen test is a cheaper and faster option in absence of PCR though less accurate. Chest CT scan can be ordered to determine the extent of the disease
There is no cure for covid19, treatment is only symptomatic and supportive. To help alleviate the symptoms, the following are used;
- Cough syrups
- Painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
- Increased fluid intake
- Plenty of rest
The following drugs have been approved for use
- Remdesivir, an antiviral drug
- Barcitinib, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis which has antiviral properties and reduces inflammation.
Supportive care may include oxygen or ventilation for critically ill patients. Dexamethasone helps reduce amount of tie under the ventilator. It is important to note that covid19 is a viral and NOT a bacterial infection and antibiotics if taken will not work. The World Health Organization advices against self-medication and urges one to seek medical attention when sick.
Having understood how the coronavirus is transmitted, preventive measures to reduce chances of infection have been arrived at. Some of the measures rolled out in the national guidelines include;
- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers (70v/v). Soap breaks the lipid layer covering the virus thereby destroying it
- Wearing a 3 ply or surgical face mask to prevent release of droplets into the air or inhaling such droplets. Remember, the mask only works if worn properly
- Sneezing or coughing into your elbow or a tissue
- Maintain social distance, advisably 1.5 meters between you and the next person
- Avoiding touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth unnecessarily
- Avoiding huge social gathering
A lot of misinformation and misconception grace our screens and talks every now and then. There is no evidence to back most of them while others are downright dangerous. Here are some COVID-19 myths busted – WHO Myth busters
Effects of the virus
Pens would run dry if we tried noting down the damages coronavirus has and continues to cause ever since its wake. They are severe, far reaching and most, hard to reverse.
‘No epidemic is ever just a health issue in isolation, and COVID-19 has emphasized this on the global stage. We need to look at it in terms of an economic issue, a livelihood issue, a social issue and a political issue too’
The disease has claimed millions and continues to sending a global wave of grief and human suffering.
Lockdowns, border closures and trade restrictions, all preventive and containment measures, coupled with a sick population has crippled the economy of most states. About half of the global workforce was laid down sending millions below the poverty line and undermining efforts to curb global poverty.
Though mother nature smiles at the falling CO2 emission rates, this positive effect in climate is only short-term.
Useful references on COVID-19 in Kenya:
Don’t forget to check out our previous blog post – how to stay motivated in pharmacy school if you haven’t already and leave a comment on some of the ways you stay motivated in pharm school.
Leave a like, share and comment down below. What are your thoughts on today’s topic?