The Great COVID-19 Pandemic  

The COVID-19 pandemic has been declared one of the deadliest outbreaks of respiratory illness in human history. The outbreak began with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) infecting citizens in Wuhan, China, and killing an estimated 12 million people worldwide. It is considered one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, causing more deaths than the Spanish flu of 1918 and the Zika virus pandemic of 2016 combined. whatiscovid19

What is COVID-19

COVID–19 is a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS – COV – 2).

COVID-19 Origins

The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, where it spread rapidly. By March 2020, only a few months after being discovered, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Months later, the same organisation proclaimed it a worldwide pandemic. Although coronavirus has been identified in both humans and animals, health officials have not yet determined the exact mode of COVID-19 transmission between humans. The Spread

The Spread

COVID-19 has an extremely high mortality rate and no known cure. From its onset in Wuhan, it spread rapidly across China and eventually the world, killing millions before anyone had a chance to find effective treatments or vaccines. Because of its high fatality rate, researchers could not ethically conduct experiments on human subjects. Instead, they were forced to rely on data collected from animals before the pandemic reached critical mass in Asia and spread globally by air travel, including to the African continent.

Where did it come from?

Although there are numerous versions of how COVID-19 first emerged in humans, most of these theories have not been proven. According to some, COVID-19 can be traced back to the SARS outbreak of 2012 that also occurred in China. Another theory is that the virus is of animal origin. Some scientists believe it was first contracted in China by vendors at a seafood, poultry, and live wildlife market. Despite the numerous theories, none have been unequivocally proven. Given this, researchers continue to examine and evaluate the real cause of the deadly outbreak.

How does it spread?

COVID–19 is commonly spread via respiratory droplets either through direct contact with an infected person or through surfaces that have been contaminated with infected respiratory droplets. If you touch an infected individual or surface, the virus can be transferred to your hands and, after that, to your mouth, nose or eyes when you touch your face. Recent studies indicate that people can also be infected by breathing in droplets expelled by an infected person standing less than 1-2 metres away. Why is it so dangerous?

Why is it so dangerous?

Understanding why COVID-19 is so dangerous has been a challenge for researchers. At first glance, the virus itself doesn’t appear terribly deadly; it causes similar symptoms to severe influenza and parainfluenza viruses. However, since COVID-19 has a 2-3% mortality rate compared to the 0,1% of influenza, one can’t deny that it is a cause for concern. Furthermore, when one compares that statistic to the measles virus, which too was declared a public health emergency by WHO recently, one can’t ignore the seriousness of COVID-19.

Furthermore, unlike any of those diseases, there doesn’t seem to be any typical behaviour or shared place—such as school or work—that makes people more susceptible to infection. This makes the disease even more threatening. Another fact that makes COVID–19 perilous is its effects on individuals with compromised immune systems. Those with underlying health conditions are most at risk and need to take extra precautions against the disease. People with co-morbidities, such as heart disease (including high blood pressure), chronic respiratory disease, cancer patients, and endocrine disease (such as diabetes), are at higher risk of severe illness and death associated with COVID–19.

symptoms

Symptoms

The incubation period for COVID–19 is between 2 and 14 days after exposure, and the average incubation period is about 5 days. Most people, approximately 95%, experience mild symptoms that gradually get worse over a few days before getting better again.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

• Fever
• Extreme fatigue
• Dry cough
• Shortness of breath.

However, numerous other symptoms can also be present when infected with the virus. These include:

• Sore throat
• Headache
• Aches and pains
• Diarrhoea
• Skin rash
• Discolouration of fingers or toes
• Red or irritated eyes

What makes COVID-19 so dangerous is that pneumonia or respiratory failure may occur in some cases. This may result in the need for mechanical ventilation, intensive care treatment, and sometimes even death. treatment

Treatment

Currently, there is no treatment except for supportive care to reduce symptoms and fluid replacement therapy when dehydration occurs. At the end of 2020, various COVID-19 vaccines were developed and introduced to the world and are currently considered the best hope for ending the pandemic. Although not a cure for the virus, vaccination is recommended for the following reasons:

• It may prevent an individual from contracting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.
• It may slow down/prevent the spread/replication/mutation of the virus.
• May assist in establishing herd immunity (when an entire community is protected from the virus through vaccination).

There are currently several makes of vaccines available in Africa, namely:

• Pfizer-BioNTech
• Covishield: Oxford/AstraZeneca formulation
• Janssen/Johnson & Johnson
• Sinovac: CoronaVac

Additional preventative measures

As the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, and given that there is currently no known cure for COVID-19, this saying certainly rings true when it comes to this virus. Besides vaccinations, there are several other measures to take to prevent infection. These are:

• Social distancing – maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from other people, even if they don’t appear to be sick.
• Wear a mask in public, especially indoors or when social distancing is not possible.
• Choose open, well-ventilated spaces over closed ones.
• Wash hands often with water and soap for 20 seconds or longer.
• Sanitise hands often with an alcohol-based (70%) sanitiser.
• Cover nose and mouth with a bent elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
• Stay home if feeling unwell.

Behaving and staying positive after testing positive

There is no need to panic should you test positive for COVID-19. Follow these basic guidelines to ensure that your recovery from the disease is as smooth as possible:

• Contact your regular primary care provider immediately after testing positive. They will assist with medication to ease the symptoms and guide you during your recovery.
• Take care of yourself! Get plenty of rest.• Eat well, even if not hungry! Eat wholesome, clean foods with a particular focus on fruit and vegetables.
• Stay hydrated! Drink water, herbal teas and vitamin waters and avoid caffeinated drinks while ill.
• Over-the-counter medications can help to manage your symptoms – speak to your health professional about what is best for you.
• Monitor symptoms carefully, and if your condition worsens, call your healthcare provider, or get medical attention immediately.

Until recently, individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, and anyone who was in direct contact with them, had to isolate at home (or place of residence) for a minimum of 10 days. However, the pandemic’s trajectory and increased levels of vaccination saw numerous countries revise their policies. South Africa was one such country, implementing the below adjustments in January 2022:

Individuals who test positive but are asymptomatic do not have to isolate.
• The isolation period for those who test positive and present symptoms has been reduced from 10 to seven (7) days.
• Contacts of a positive case do not have to isolate unless they develop symptoms.