Holy mackerel! Currently COVID-19 kills someone in the United States every 107 seconds! And the U.S. is reporting more than 70,000 new coronavirus cases each day.
Wear a mask! Wearing a mask protects us from others exhaling the virus, protects us from inhaling the virus, and lowers how much virus we are exposed to (cloth and surgical masks protect us from most virus particles, but not all). There is evidence that wearing masks so lowers the amount of virus a person is exposed to (viral load), that if a person gets the infection, the body can deal with it much better and the infections may be asymptomatic or minor. This is huge - the possibility that up to 95% of infections could be asymptomatic!
A study looked at how long the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which causes COVID-19 lives on human skin. Researchers in Japan used human cadaver skin (because they didn't want to infect living humans) to compare influenza and the new coronavirus. They found that coronavirus lives up to 9 hours on undisturbed skin! And influenza A virus (a flu strain) less than 2 hours.
They also found that both viruses are easily washed away with soap and water or a hand sanitizer containing 80% alcohol.
Yes, it is thought that aerosol and droplets are the main ways to get the new coronavirus. But you do want to wash it off your hands after exposure. Proper hand hygiene!
Today while waiting in a line at the store, everyone wearing the required masks, the woman in front of me told me that the masks are useless and that there isn't good evidence that the coronavirus is spread through the air. Huh? Where did she get that idea? Of course there is airborne transmission of the virus!
It's true that some government agencies are hedging about airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which leads to COVID-19 infection) , but the scientific evidence for aerosol and droplet transmission of the virus is growing and very clear. [Aerosols are smaller than droplets, and both carry the virus.] Fortunately, the evidence just isn't there for getting this particular virus from touching surfaces (such as doorknobs or faucets) - which originally was a big worry.
The following are some articles that discuss how airborne transmission occurs, why wearing a mask protects us from others exhaling the virus, and also protects us from inhaling the virus and lowers how much virus we are exposed to (cloth and surgical masks protect us from most virus particles, but not all). In fact, some scientists are wondering whether wearing masks so lowers the amount of virus a person is exposed to (viral load), that if a person gets the infection, the body can deal with it much better and the infections may be asymptomatic or minor.
In case you're wondering: being outdoors dilutes and disperses the virus. If you are concerned about the virus spreading indoors - then open a window (to dilute and disperse the virus).
Covid-19 is a weird and scary virus. It turns out that while most people report none or minimal symptoms from a Covid-19 infection, there are also thousands of people reporting prolonged symptoms. Instead of being sick with Covid-19 for 2 weeks or so (the average for mild cases), they get sick with the viral infection and then it never seems to go away. There may be big ups and downs with a wide variety of serious symptoms (including neurological and gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, fevers, heart palpitations), but they are still sick weeks or months after the initial infection.
What is going on? People experiencing long-term Covid-19 symptoms refer to themselves as "long-haulers" or "long-termers". Covid-19 is a new and complex disease that seems to attack many organs of the body. It is such a new disease that much is still unknown, including why some people seem to experience Covid-19 symptoms for weeks or months after the initial infection. But some possibilities are emerging, such asmyalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) . ME/CFS clusters have occurred in the past after many infectious outbreaks, including after the SARS epidemic (a similar coronavirus) of 2003.
Paul Garner, professor of infectious diseases at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, has documented his battle with long-term Covid-19 symptoms in the British Medical Journal blog (also June 23 follow-up), and the need for "pacing" during recovery to prevent relapses. [twitter.com/paulgarnerwoof?lang=en ]
Bottom line: Don't let others, including doctors, dismiss your symptoms. They are real. Read about the experiences of others and join support groups. The good news is that slowly, over time, most people are reporting improvement. Unfortunately, it will take time for public health officials, including the CDC, to catch up and acknowledge what people are already experiencing.
Have you recently lost your sense of taste or smell? Then you may be infected with the coronavirus COVID-19, even if you don't display any other symptoms.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) posted on its web-site that loss of a sense of smell (anosmia) and loss of a sense of taste (dysgeusia) are both symptoms of COVID-19. Even if there are no other symptoms of COVID-19 - meaning it's a mild case, but it is still infectious and can be spread to others. Reports from South Korea are that about 30% of patients and from Germany that more than half of patients experience this.
It doesn't seem to matter how sick you are, or whether you are congested or not. Nothing seems to help - not nose drops or sprays. Persons regain their sense of smell and/or taste after a few days or weeks.
News stories about the coronavirus called COVID-19 now sweeping the globe have stressed that people over the age of 60, or people immunocompromised in some way, or with underlying health conditions are especially vulnerable to the virus. Which led many people to think that in persons younger than 60 getting a COVID-19 infection wasn't a big deal.
However, a report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) looking at COVID-19 cases in the United States that occurred during February 12–March 16, 2020, found that surprisingly large numbers of younger adults also require hospitalization. They reported that nearly 40% of younger adults with COVID-19 between the ages of 20 and 54 wind up being hospitalized, and that nearly half of people admitted to intensive care units were under the age of 65. And there were some deaths.
On the other hand, no ICU admissions or deaths were reported among persons aged less than 19 years. Whew...
Still, the authors wrote, “these preliminary data also demonstrate that severe illness leading to hospitalization, including I.C.U. admission and death, can occur in adults of any age with Covid-19".
Watching the coronavirus spread in the USA and the world (see global map), it is clear that the United States is lagging behind some other countries in testing for the coronavirus, as well as slowing down the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, our country, including the CDC, has responded terribly in many ways. So... it is with awe that I read how South Korea is testing for the coronavirus: roadside drive through testing stations, similar to fast food drive thru.
The drive through roadside testing sites are safe, easy, efficient, and a cost effective way to test people for the coronavirus. The procedure only takes a few minutes with people remaining in their cars, hundreds of people are screened at each site daily, and results are back within a few days.
Another plus is that in South Korea the coronavirus testing is paid for by the government (universal health care!), which results in people not being afraid to go for testing. Unfortunately, in the US, not only are there not enough tests available, but currently you are responsible for all your medical costs, including testing. Which is too much money for many, many people.
Worried about the new coronavirus? And trying to find accurate information about its spread? As you probably know, the novel coronavirus is called COVID-19 and is now spreading throughout the world, with numbers increasing daily.
There is one great site with a coronavirus global mapthat is updated numerous times every day. It has been developed by Johns Hopkins University researchers, and actually posts information down to the county and city level, including number of cases, deaths, and recovered. But please note that it really should be viewed on a computer, and not cell phone. Lots of detailed global information. Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE
Interestingly, one can see how some countries are dealing much better with the coronavirus than others. For example, Singapore (about 5.7 million people, and among the best healthcare systems in the world) has 117 documented cases at this time, with 78 recovered, but ZERO deaths. Which means a 0% death rate there. [Note: Unfortunately, the U.S. health care system is not ranked that well - not even in the top 20 globally]
The NY Times has a much simpler tracking map for the United States, with fewer details, along with an explanatory article.
We now know that most people (at least 80%) with the coronavirus don't have symptoms at all or only minor symptoms (whew!), but this allows the virus to spread "stealthily" through communities. So keep in mind that any map with "reported cases" is only recording those who have sought both medical care and been tested.
The goal is to try to slow down the spread of the virus until effective antivirals are available and good treatment protocols are in place. Studies are now ongoing (with results hopefully in a few weeks), with many thinking that the best antiviral may turn out to be remdesivir. Of course other drugs and vaccines are in development. Even older drugs such as chloroquine (an anti-malarial) are being looked at.
Best protection advice: 1) wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds, 2) keep your fingers away from your face - especially the eyes, nose, and mouth, 3) try to keep a social distance of at least 3 feet (better 6 feet) from other people, and 4) cough and sneeze into your elbow, or into a tissue which you then dispose of into garbage or a plastic bag. Stay home if feeling sick. And stay calm!
Wonder what the new coronavirus that everyone is worried about looks like? The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has now released a number of images of the novel coronavirus, along with a blog post.
The full name of the coronavirus is SARS-CoV-2, and the illness it causes is COVID-19 disease. The spread of this virus has rapidly grown to be a global public health emergency since it was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. [CDC novel coronavirus site]
The images are beautiful. Note the spikes on the surface of each virus which give it a crown-like appearance. The word "corona" is Latin for "crown". Most coronaviruses have a crown-like appearance, including MERS (which emerged in 2012) and SARS (in 2002).
NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, Montana, produced the images on their scanning and transmission electron microscopes.
The virus SARS-CoV-2 with its crown-like spikes
The virus SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink). Cells were from a patient in the US and cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML