COVID-19: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019. It is a disease that affect the respiratory tract and causes symptoms such as sore throat, fever, chills and cough at early stage of infection. COVID-19 is caused by a new kind of virus known as “SARS-CoV-2”. This virus causes respiratory tract infections and the symptoms ranges from mild to severe depending on the age and underlying health conditions in people that are affected.
The origin of coronavirus was traced to a food market in Wuhan, China in 2019 and the World Health Organisation declared (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 2020. SARS-CoV-2 is a new kind of virus that has affected millions of people all over the world and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives due to its rapid mode of transmission. You can only contract the virus if you come in contact with an infected person or infected surface.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 ranges from mild to severe. It usually appears after 2 to 14 days of exposure to the infection.

Mouth and nose should be covered while sneezing to slow down the spread of COVID-19

The symptoms most people that are infected experience include:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Body pains
  • Runny nose
  • Lost of taste or smell
  • Nausea

The symptoms may become more severe in old people, those with compromised immune system and people with underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and asthma. The most common symptoms of severe COVID-19 is pneumonia which result into chronic difficulty in breathing and chest pain that can lead to death.

When to contact your doctor?

A person can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 without exhibiting any symptoms and this does not mean that he or she cannot spread the virus. Therefore it is important to self isolate and contact your health care provider if you have come in contact with a person you suspect to have the virus or you experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Reoccurring chest pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Sudden lost off taste or smell
  • Delirium (mental confusion)

WHO advices that people with less severe symptoms should manage it at home with their doctor’s guidance while those with severe symptoms should seek immediate medical care and should always contact their doctor before going to the clinic for treatment.

What causes COVID-19?

COVID-19 is caused by a new kind of Coronavirus named “SARS-CoV-2”. This virus can be spread from animals to humans. Humans get the virus when they come in contact with an animal that is infected with SARS-CoV-2. The virus that causes Covid-19 can also be transmitted from human-to-human through close contact (less than 6 meter away) . This virus can be spread when an infected person talks, spits or sneezes into the air and a healthy person inhales the respiratory droplets. You can also get infected with SARS-CoV-2 when you touch your eyes, mouth or nose with an unwashed hand after coming in contact with surfaces(door handles, tables, glass and other surfaces) that are already contaminated with the virus.

How long can SARS-CoV-2 survive on surfaces?

SARS-CoV-2 can land on a surface through the respiratory droplets of an infected person. The virus can survive from hours to days on different surfaces and still be infectious. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine comparing the aerosol and the surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 with SARS-CoV-1 revealed that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive in the air (aerosol) for 3 hours. This research further shows that this virus can survive on plastic and stainless steel for up to 3 days and are more viable on these surfaces compared to copper and cardboard surfaces. It can also thrive for 24 hours on a cardboards and just 4 hours on copper surfaces.
Therefore maintaining proper hygiene and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces can help to slow down the spread of this virus.

What are the risk factors of COVID-19?

These are various conditions and factors that can contribute to the spread of SARS-COV-2 as well as worsening of the symptoms of the infection.
The people with the following health conditions are more likely to experience a serious and severe symptoms of COVID-19 when affected with the virus :

  • Serious heart conditions such as coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies and heart failure
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD)
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • A weakened immune system that result from an organ transplant
  • Chronic kidney disease

Your risk of developing severe symptoms of covid-19 may also increase with age. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that the greatest risk for having serious and severe illness from COVID-19 is among those that are 85 years old and above. Older adults above the age of 65 can also develop serious illness from COVID-19.
Pregnancy can also increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and may results into pregnancy complications such as preterm delivery. Therefore precautionary measures should be taken to avoid being infected with coronavirus during pregnancy periods.
If you have the above underlying health condition, CDC advises that you should continue to take your medications and do not change them without contacting your doctor. You should always contact your health care provider for immediate medical attention if you fall sick from covid-19.
The factors that can increase the spread of coronavirus include:

  • Appearing in a crowdy environment without maintaining physical distancing (close contacts less than 6 feet)
  • Non-use of face masks in a crowdy environment where physical distancing is not possible
  • Unhygienic practices
  • Exposure to respiratory droplets form the call sneeze or saliva of an infected person
  • Living or caring for someone who has the infection
  • Regular touching of the highest mouth and nose with an unwashed hands
  • Exposure to respiratory droplets from the coughs, sneezes, or saliva of an infected person.

How is Covid-19 diagnosed?

The diagnostic test for COVID-19 are carried out by trained health care professionals only. The test is usually performed by inserting a cotton swab into your nose to collect nasal samples and subjecting it to laboratory test in other to detect the viral particle. The United States food and drug administration authorised the use of antigen test on May 2020 to facilitate quick detection of coronavirus from the nasal samples collected from patients.

COVID-19 blood sample

Covid-19 test can also be performed by screening for antibodies in the blood sample of the patient. The antibodies detected are immune response to viral infections but the limitation of this test is that it does not diagnose current infection.
If you want to go for covid-19 test after developing its symptoms, it is advisable that you contact your health care provider before visiting the clinic. If your result comes out positive or negative it is still important for you to take all precautionary measures to protect you and others from the spread of the virus.

How can I prevent Covid-19 Infection?

COVID-19 can be prevented by observing the following precautions:

  • Practice regular handwashing: you should always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds under running water especially after blowing your nose, using the toilet or bathroom and touching surfaces. You should also wash your hands after coughing and sneezing, before eating and after coming in contact with people.
  • Use alcohol based hand sanitizer: in a situation whereby the use of soap and water for hand washing is unavailable, alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol should be used and spread all over the palm to eliminate and inactivate coronavirus. To properly use hand sanitizers, pour sufficient amount of it on your hands and rub it together ensuring that it covers all surfaces until it totally disappears.
  • Make use of face mask: it is important that you cover your nose and mouth with surgical face mask or fabrics marks whenever you are in a crowded environment or with an infected person so as to prevent inhaling infectious respiratory droplets.The use of face masks is essential in slowing down the spread of the virus. Even if you are infected facemask can prevent you from spreading infections to others.
  • Avoid close contact with people: this is another important way of preventing infections from SARS-CoV-2. Stay at least 6feet away from people and avoid social gathering to prevent exposures to infectious respiratory droplets.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surface on regular basis such as door knobs, kitchen cabinets, phones, tables, light switches and so on.
  • Plates, spoons and other kitchen utensils should be washed regularly with soap and water before they are being used to serve meals
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your tissue paper when coughing or sneezing and dispose it properly
  • If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 call your doctor before visiting the clinic

Can I breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Breastfeeding is very important to both the mother and the baby. Breast milk contains antibodies that helps the baby to fight against many infections including viral illness such as roseola and measles. Breastfeeding also reduces the baby’s risk of obesity ,cardiovascular disease, asthma and type 2 diabetes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the spread of active COVID-19 through breast milk have not been recorded till date.
Therefore there is no reason to stop breastfeeding.
WHO recommends the following guidelines for nursing mothers who wants to continue to breastfeed their babies:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before breastfeeding
  • Cough and sneeze into tissue papers, dispose immediately and wash your hands properly
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you have touched
  • Use medical facemasks while breastfeeding or when coming in contact with the baby. Facemask should be disposed immediately after use

In a situation where the use facemask is impossible, WHO still recommends breastfeeding but other precautionary measures such as handwashing and the use of hand sanitizer should be maintained.

About Adebayo Taiwo

Adebayo Taiwo hails from Africa. He's a Microbiologist , Health Safety and Environment Specialist and a Health Advisor who is concerned about the well-being and healthy lifestyle of people around the globe. The health of my people is my pride.

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