With the news of COVID-19 spreading across the globe – resulting in country lockdowns and imposed quarantines on citizens – there’s been a lot of panic, misinformation, and chaos among countries and its people. Hoaxes have spread through social media in an attempt to mislead people into acting carelessly, or do things that would otherwise not help at all. That’s why it’s important to set the record straight and know what exactly this virus is so we know how to deal with it.

What is COVID-19?

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is the disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This new strain of coronavirus was first found in the city of Wuhan in China in December 2019. Since its spread across at least 140 countries, WHO has declared it as a global pandemic, with over 180,000 infections all over the world and causing over 7,000+ fatalities.

What are the symptoms?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough (usually dry), and shortness of breath. These usually appear within 2 to 14 days of infection. It may progress into more severe symptoms for the critically ill such as people in need for respiratory devices just to breathe, with pneumonia, and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Despite these, there are asymptomatic carriers of the virus. They show no sign of symptoms and may even appear completely healthy. There is a possibility that they may be worsening the spread to other people, as they typically would go about their day none the wiser. That’s why various governments and health organizations have highly encouraged people to practice social distancing to slow down the spread.

How is it spread?

The CDC says that it can spread through these means:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Close contact

But it isn’t just through close contact with people, but even with the objects they’ve interacted with. Studies have shown that the virus can last for a certain amount of time on surfaces. In particular, it may last on cardboard for 24 hours and plastic and steel for up to 72 hours.

The troubling part of this is that since there are asymptomatic carriers and those who don’t show signs initially, people could be spreading it unknowingly. Which is why social distancing is needed until the virus is contained.

Do people recover?

The silver lining of this situation is about 80% – 90% of the cases recover. This is supported by studies that indicate that 80% of infected only experienced mild symptoms, 15% had more severe ones such as difficulty in breathing, and 5% had critical symptoms such as organ failure and respiratory failure.

The mortality rate of the disease differs depending on which professional you ask, as the pandemic is still ongoing. Based on the data and situation from Wuhan, however, experts have narrowed it down to 1.4%. Typically, those affected or see more severe symptoms are the elderly or those with comorbidities such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. So if you or any of your loved ones fall under the criteria or have compromised immune systems, it’s best to practice caution.

There is no known cure or vaccine yet for the virus, but the race to create a vaccine is underway with clinical trials officially beginning. It’s also been reported that Australia has seen success in curing those with COVID-19 with HIV-suppressing and anti-malaria drugs, though the long-term effects still have to be studied.

How do you know if you have COVID-19?

While there are symptoms as stated above, you can still be asymptomatic. Aside from that, the initial symptoms are quite similar to flu and allergies, making it more difficult to determine. The true way to know if you have COVID-19 is to have yourself tested through a testing kit. Health personnel wear personal protective equipment and take a swab from the patient’s nasal cavity. Then, through reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, they check in a lab if the genetic material of the virus is in the cells of the sample.

Different countries vary in testing their patients. In South Korea, they have set-up drive-through testing stations for anyone to get tested without having to leave their vehicles. In the Philippines, testing kits are still quite limited so those who are exhibiting severe symptoms are being prioritized. Fortunately, a team of scientists from the University of the Philippines – National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) have developed the GenAmplify COVID-19 rRT-PCR Detection Kit that can turn up results in less than two hours. It’s also much cheaper than foreign kits at less than P1,500. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but must be approved for “emergency use listing” by WHO.

What can you do to prevent it?

As mentioned earlier, there is no cure or vaccine yet for the virus. But we as regular citizens can do our part in flattening the curve. The guidelines from WHO recommend the following:

  • Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol and sanitizers if soap is not available.
  • Practice social distancing and coughing and sneezing etiquette. Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue, then dispose after.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Once you feel symptoms, call your health provider on what to do to get medical care.

There are also other tips such as practicing self-quarantine for 14 days if coming from an area with known infections, not going out unless absolutely necessary, constantly disinfecting surfaces and frequently touched objects, and wearing masks if sick.

With the world in a state of pandemic, we have to do our part in ensuring that this virus doesn’t affect us or anyone around us. This means following the health guidelines as stated by organizations that are dedicated in disseminating information about this virus. Make sure you are aware of everything you need to know so you’re not deceived by fake news and hoaxes about COVID-19. And of course, we do hope you and your family stay safe as the world goes through this trying time.

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