The coronavirus disease i.e. COVID-19 that started in Wuhan, China in January 2020 isn’t the same as the coronavirus that causes mild illness among humans, such as the common cold. It’s a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The source of COVID-19 is known as SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which is a beta coronavirus, and originates from bats. Supposedly, they can survive in higher temperatures and higher humidity for shorter periods, than the cooler and dryer atmosphere. However, direct data hasn’t been collected based on this information and the mentioned temperature would also apply to the surface of materials or the environment. The novel coronavirus has rapidly spread across the globe in a matter of weeks and was declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
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How Does Coronavirus Spread?
COVID-19 for the most part spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets that are formed during a sneeze or a cough. They can easily land in the noses or mouths of people who are at proximity to the infected person and, and can be inhaled into the respiratory system. The possibility of that happening is higher when a person is close to someone who has contracted the virus, thereby making it necessary to maintain 6 feet apart at all times. Coronavirus seems to sustain community spread, which means people who live in the same area are prone to catching the virus, although some of them don’t even realize how they contracted it.
Right at the beginning of the emergence of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed it to be a respiratory virus which means it can be spread between two people in the form of sneeze or cough “droplets”. The reason for CDC to advise on the 6 feet apart rule refers to the idea that these respiratory droplets are generally large (more than 0.002 inches) therefore, gravity might cause them to fall away from the person who sneezed or coughed, but not more than 6 feet. However, Josh Santarpia, a research director at the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute added that the 6 feet guideline isn’t a hard and fast rule because airflow conditions can cause those large droplets to fall further than 6 feet. Regardless, hospital officials continue to believe that just maintaining the 6 feet apart rule can mitigate the spread of the virus. Moreover, what makes it more critical is that more than 25 percent of carriers are asymptomatic which means they do not show any symptoms at all thereby, making it harder to rule out anyone as a non-carrier just because they aren’t repeatedly sneezing or coughing.
Contact transmission has been proved to play a role in the spread of coronavirus according to which viral particles from an infected person fall on a surface, followed by another person touching the surface and then, touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. Then, the viral particles can enter the body through the mucous membrane and infect the second person. One study showed that COVID-19 can live on surfaces up to 24 hours on cardboards and up to 2 to 3 days on steel and plastic.
According to a study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, on hospitalized COVID-19 patients, viral contamination has been found on frequently touched surfaces, such as toilets. Moreover, an investigation has been done on the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship, Diamond Princess cruise, where RNA traces of COVID-19 were found on surfaces all around the cruise ship including cabins of infected patients (both symptomatic and asymptomatic). These traces lasted up to 17 days although it wasn’t concluded whether RNA was still infectious.
Furthermore, a report from Singapore also suggested that coronavirus can be transmitted through contaminated surfaces. Here, a person who had contracted the virus had attended a church service. Later that day, another person who sat on the same place the infected person was seated, contracted the virus too, thereby showing a possibility of contamination through surface contact.
Aerosol transmission refers to the large droplets of mucus suspending in the air long enough that it infects a passerby. This complicates the understanding of transmission methods because mucus droplets vary in sizes and the tiniest ones (considered as aerosols) can survive in the air for a period that it can sneak into the respiratory system of a passerby through breathing. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, such aerosols can survive in the air for up to 3 hours. Although, it has not been established whether it is a highly common mode of transmission or how long can they remain infectious.
However, another study proved otherwise. In early March, a two-hour choir practice was held in Washington, where none of the singers were sneezing or coughing throughout the period while maintaining distance. But later it was found out that all the 45 choir participants were tested positive for COVID-19, out of which two people died. The study concluded that there’s a possibility that the virus could have transmitted in the form of aerosols during singing or via speech.
How Can You Protect Yourself and Others from Coronavirus?
Since there is no vaccine made to protect yourself from coronavirus, it is pertinent that you take all the necessary steps to protect yourself and others. Firstly, you must wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after coughing, sneezing, or being present in a public place. A hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is a good alternative if you do not have soap available at any given circumstances. You must also avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes before washing or sanitizing your hands.
Avoid close contact with anyone in public by maintaining the 6 feet apart rule. Also, if one of the members in your house is sick, ensure that they self-isolate to prevent the transmission of the virus to the other household members. Also, do not gather in groups whatsoever. Furthermore, cover your mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing, or use a washcloth to cover it, while making sure you wash your hands or the cloth right away. If you’re using tissues, dispose them in a covered trash. Since contact with the infected surface can cause transmission you must disinfect all the frequently touched surfaces at your house including doorknobs, light switches, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, and sinks.
Can Coronavirus Be Transmitted Through Air?
By now, we know that the most common mode of viral transmission is through droplets that are coughed or sneezed by people who have contracted the disease. A single sneeze can create up to 10,000 droplets, while a cough can form 3,000 droplets. Practically, they can easily land in another person’s airways, or could drop on a surface which is then touched by another person, who then proceeds to touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. As the report in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests, the virus can survive in the air about 3 hours after an infected person sneezes or coughs it out in the form of droplets known as “droplet spread”. An interrupted droplet can travel as far as 60 meters thereby, making it necessary to use hands or tissues to prevent that from happening. Moreover, with the right temperature, reduced airflow, and open space, these tiny droplets can “live” in the air even for a longer period.
What is the Possibility of Coronavirus Spread through Food?
Currently, there’s no evidence that the virus particles can survive or spread through food. However, with social distancing in practice, takeout and grocery deliveries have become popular. While the virus will not live long in food, a small concentration of the viral particles may remain on the food packaging. To avoid risking a transmission, you must wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds after you dispose the packaging and before you consume the food, or sort the groceries. Moreover, to be on the safe side, disinfect the surface on which the package is placed.
Can COVID-19 Be Transmitted From Pets?
Not many cases have been reported about animals being infected with the COVID-19 virus after being in contact with people who have contracted the disease. Also, you must remember that even if another species has been infected by the virus, it doesn’t mean that it can cause illness to them too, or further be a medium of transmission. However, if you want to take safety precautions, you must keep your pets away from people outside your household during this time. Since social distancing is a necessary approach for humans, apply that to your pets as well, unless they need veterinary care.
A Pug Tested Positive for COVID-19
In April, a pug participated in a coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 study at Duke University, and tested positive, while showing mild signs of illness for the next couple of days. The husband, the wife and the son of the family whom the dog belonged to were also tested positive for COVID-19, while the daughter and the other pets remained infection-free. There is no current evidence that COVID-19 can cause illness in dogs. Moreover, if your dog remains at home and does not come in contact with anyone from outside, there’s hardly any chance that they will contract the virus, given that none of the household members have the disease. However, if you notice any coronavirus-like symptoms, make sure to wash your hands after you come in contact with your pet.
Felines and Their Susceptibility to Viruses
According to the New England Journal Medicine, a study was held on a limited number of cats which confirmed that felines can transfer the COVID-19 virus to other cats. Later on, in April, two cats from two different households in New York were tested positive for the virus, both of whom were believed to be in contact with people who were infected with the virus. The degree of recovery was however different – just mild respiratory problems which led to full recovery soon. Scientists were not shocked regarding these cases because felines are usually susceptible to viruses. That being said, if you are feeling sick, you should by all means stop interacting with your cats.
Caution for Ferret Owners
According to small scientific studies, ferrets are vulnerable to SARS-CoV -2 infection which might lead to illness. Therefore, if you own a ferret and are supposedly experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after you come in contact with your pet. If possible, take someone else’s help to take care of your ferret. That being said, a ferret’s susceptibility to the virus makes it play an important role in human vaccine development.
Latest Updates on COVID-19 Outbreak
17 May 2020 | 8000 New Coronavirus Infections in China
In the Northeast of China, the government has quarantined 8000 people after a report of new infections. According to the state news media report, the Chinese government also pressed new travel restrictions in Jilin Province where the new rash of infection grew. The residents of the Jilin Province are since then prohibited to leave the city. New cases were reported in the neighboring city as well, Shenyang in Liaoning Province. The contact traces in Jilin and Liaoning account for 700 and 1000 people, respectively, which increases the chances for 6500 more people getting infected. However, the total number of coronavirus active cases in whole of China has dropped significantly since the peak at the third week of February 2020.
16 May 2020 | Barack Obama’s Criticism on the Virus Response
Former US president, Barack Obama pointed criticism towards the country’s response to the pandemic in two virtual speeches. The focal point of the criticism lied on the fact that more than two-thirds of the nation was instructed to practice very relaxed social distancing and lockdown restrictions which had a huge role of the US holding the largest outbreak with more than 88,000 deaths.
15 May 2020 | National Confusion Led to the Increase of Coronavirus Spread Rate in Brazil
Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro instructed his supporters to join in rallies that portrayed the president’s directive to go back to work instead of maintaining the stay-at-home guideline. This led to packed subway cars, crowded banks, and buses full of the president’s supporters. This national confusion made Brazil an emerging center of the coronavirus pandemic, standing just after the United States in terms of the daily death rate.
14 May 2020 | New Virology Research by Wuhan’s “batwoman”
A Chinese virologist, Shi Zhengli was accused of being responsible for the coronavirus emerging from her lab. After remaining out of the public eye for weeks, she has come up with new findings to disregard the accusation. According to the latest research, “evolutionary arms race” is possible between viruses and their hosts which focus on the genetic diversity in viruses, supporting the idea that a bat is the natural host of the coronaviruses like the ones that cause COVID-19 and SARS. Therefore, continued observation of this group of viruses is required to prevent any SARS-like disease in the future.
Track the COVID-19 Pandemic across the Globe
The COVID-19 pandemic is currently affecting 213 countries across the globe, while some countries are effectively controlling the outbreak and mitigating the spread of the disease, others are failing to do so. Even with lockdown and social distancing measures in the majority of the world, we must be aware of the current updates about the disease and its consequences. To keep track of the current infection rate, recovery rate, and the total number of deaths all across the globe, as well as the respective country-wise data, please click on the below link.
The best way to mitigate the coronavirus spread is to be aware of what causes the disease and how it spreads. The outbreak of COVID-19 has left everyone across the globe concerned about theirs and their loved ones’ safety. Besides, there has been so much information circulating regarding the disease that it’s hard to settle on which ones are effective. But this article is pointed towards valid information that is necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.
Staying at home to follow the strict lockdown measures can have an impact on physical and mental health due to less social interactions and exercise. As underlying illnesses harm infected people more, it’s important to stay physically active and take measures to boost your immune system while at home. Do at-home workouts for at least 30 minutes per day at your convenient time and incorporate immune-boosting foods in your daily meals such as garlic, ginger, citrus fruits, spinach, yogurt, broccoli, almond, and more. Furthermore, look after your mental health by decreasing screen time, keeping up with personal hygiene, and allocating time for things you love to do. Unless a vaccine against coronavirus is invented and made readily available all across the globe, it’s important to take all the necessary steps to prevent the contraction and coronavirus spread.