What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a kind of common virus that causes infections in the upper respiratory system. Most strains of the virus are not dangerous and only cause mild cold symptoms. The current coronavirus, identified as SARS-CoV-2 by the World Health Organization, has quickly spread throughout the world. COVID-19, as it is commonly called, can cause infections of both the upper and lower respiratory tract. This affects the sinuses, nose, throat, windpipe, lungs, and other organs of those infected.
There are at least six known strains of coronaviruses that have been found in humans, with one strain being divided into two subspecies. With the exception of MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and COVID-19, the infections are generally mild and cause most of the common colds that affect humans during flu season. They are not a threat to generally healthy people.
How did Coronavirus start?
While there are still ongoing debates about how the virus originated, it is commonly accepted that SARS-CoV-2 came from bats, like MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) also did. COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease meaning it is transferred from animals to people. It is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China in their open-air “wet markets.” A wet market sells all types of animals that customers can pay to have killed on the spot, so the meat is fresh.
Because these wet markets sell all types of animals, common and exotic, the crowded conditions create an environment where animals can easily transfer genes to each other. This provides a chance for the virus to mutate and spread from animals to humans.
How does Coronavirus spread?
COVID-19 spreads the same way as other coronaviruses, mainly through person to person contact with someone infected. Those infected can have symptoms ranging from mild to deadly and because the symptoms vary so greatly it is not always possible to tell if someone has been infected from symptoms alone.
The virus can spread through spray droplets when a person who is infected with COVID-19 sneezes or coughs. If someone inhales or swallows these droplets, the virus can spread into the body. The virus can also spread from touching something that has the virus and then touching your own mouth, eyes, or nose. COVID-19 can live for several hours on a surface where it has landed. Different surfaces and textures hold the virus for different amounts of time. Below is a list of how long scientist estimate the virus can live on various surfaces:
- Cardboard: up to 1 day
- Plastic: 2-3 days
- Stainless steel: 2-3 days
- Copper: 4 hours
- Metal surfaces: up to 5 days
- Wood: up to 4 days
- Aluminum: 2-8 hours
- Glass: up to 5 days
- Paper: (answers vary depending on the type) ranges from a few minutes to 8 days
To disinfect these surfaces it is important to clean them with a bleach solution if possible or avoid them until the risk of infection has passed. Mix ⅓ cup of bleach with water, spray surfaces and leave on for 1 minute before cleaning off with warm water and soap.
Currently, the transmission rate of COVID-19 is high, but humans can lower the risk by frequently washing hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap, keeping surfaces clean, and limiting contact with people outside of your household. If it is not possible to avoid going amongst people wearing a face covering, such as a mask, and keeping a 6-foot distance can help limit the spread of infection.
Is coronavirus airborne?
Airborne transmission means that a virus, COVID-19 in this instance, can spread through aerosols that retain their infectious nature when suspended in the air for a long time and over distances. This topic is greatly debated and currently being researched but according to the World Health Organization coronavirus can be airborne for a limited time but only in certain conditions. One of these conditions is during aerosol-generating procedures in a hospital setting.
Outside of a hospital setting, there are studies that suggest that short-range aerosol transmission is possible in indoor crowded spaces such as restaurants, gyms or fitness classes, and indoor concerts. However, these infections can also be explained by simple human-to-human contact.
What are the symptoms of the Coronavirus?
There is a wide array of symptoms that can be present for COVID-19. The most common symptoms are high fever, coughing, shortness of breath/trouble breathing, body fatigue, aches, chills, sore throat, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of taste or smell. If more severe symptoms present it is time to call your doctor and visit a hospital. The severe symptoms of COVID-19 are trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion and disorientation, bluish lips or face, and the feeling of not being able to fully wake up.
The virus can lead to complications, especially if the human host has other preexisting conditions that make him/her more susceptible. COVID-19 can lead to pneumonia, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, organ failure, septic shock, and death. These complications are caused by cytokine release syndrome which triggers the immune system to flood the bloodstream with inflammatory proteins called cytokines. However, there is a small portion of people that are infected with COVID-19 that present no symptoms at all. If you think you may have been infected it is best to get tested.
How deadly is coronavirus?
To calculate how deadly a virus is, scientists use a metric called infection fatality rate or IFR. It is determined by the proportion of people who get infected and die as a result of the virus compared to those who get it and recover. The IFR has been difficult to track because there are people with no or mild symptoms and because countries are struggling to keep count of all COVID related deaths. The WHO estimates an IFR of approximately 0.5 – 1% currently meaning that .5-1% of people could die from COVID.
How long does Coronavirus last?
For people suffering from mild symptoms, the recovery time has been estimated to be about two weeks while more severe cases or cases in people with an underlying condition recovery are estimated to take around 3-7 weeks. The CDC recommends isolating for 10-14 days after starting to feel ill or coming in contact with someone infected or three days after you no longer have a fever.
Can dogs or cats get Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, yes cats, dogs, and some other animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2. There have been reports of animals getting the virus around the world. A couple of lions and tigers at the Bronx zoo tested positive after coming in contact with an infected staff member but have fully recovered since. However, there is no current evidence that shows these animals could spread the disease back to humans.
If you are worried that you have been infected or have come in contact with someone infected, stay at home! Contact us for convenient testing in the comfort of your own home.