There are so many unknowns about the novel corona virus that has triggered unprecedented quarantine efforts, dangerous conspiracy theories and global alarm. Much of what we know about coronaviruses comes from the ones that we’ve dealt with before – ranging from deadly global health threats such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to versions that cause the common cold.
New information is coming in on a daily basis, but here’s what we know so far about the respiratory virus that has, as of Feb 16 2020, infected more than 69,000 people and killed more than 1,600 people, all but four on the Chinese mainland.
What are the symptoms and how deadly is the new coronavirus?
Common signs of infection include fever, coughing and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, multiple organ failure and death. The incubation period of COVID-19 is thought to be between one and 14 days. It is contagious before symptoms appear.
Infected patients can be asymptomatic, not displaying any symptoms despite having the virus in their systems. The good news is that public health officials say the new coronavirus is less deadly than SARS, which killed about 10 percent of people who were infected during the outbreak that began in 2002. But an urgent question needs to be answered as soon as possible: How much less deadly is it? About 2 percent of the reported cases as of Feb. 7 have been fatal, but many experts say the death rate could be lower. That’s because early in an outbreak, mild illnesses may not be reported.
How easily does it spread?
The bad news is that the new coronavirus appears to spread much more easily than SARS and instead is similar to other coronaviruses that cause cold-like symptoms. A virus that can spread fairly easily – and may already be fairly widespread – presents a huge public health challenge.
Who is most at risk of severe illness?
So far, the risk factors for developing severe illness are thought to be similar to those for other respiratory illnesses. Older people and those with underlying illnesses, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are at increased risk. Early studies have also suggested men are at greater risk.
How do you treat this coronavirus illness?
There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for this infection. People who become ill should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.
Is the Corona Virus in Bali?
That’s a very good question. No one seems to be able to give an absolute answer to this. What we do know is that one Chinese national holidaying on the Island has been confirmed positive. Given that the virus is highly contagious, he has probably passed it along somewhere.
When will it end?
This coronavirus could follow a seasonal pattern, peaking in the winter months. It could infect lots of people now and then begin to recede in the Northern Hemisphere before returning in the fall. It could take hold in the Southern Hemisphere. What we do know is that the virus is unpredictable. It can mutate and morph in its own favour any time that it wants.
In the meantime, here’s what every smart leader, and employee, should do to avoid disruptions from both the coronavirus and the flu.
- Don’t go to work if you feel sick, and don’t let your employees / students come in either
Our tendency to take a cold pill and tough it out when we don’t feel well is one of the worst habits we have. If you have any symptoms at all, and in particular a fever, you absolutely must stay at home because you risk sharing whatever you have with the community at large. This would be true even if there were no coronavirus.
- Wash your hands. A lot
People worry about catching viruses when other people cough or sneeze in their vicinity, and of course that is one way of contracting the flu and most likely the coronavirus as well. But it’s also alarmingly easy to catch the flu or another virus if you touch an object or surface that was touched by someone who was contagious any time over the previous 48 hours, especially if you then touch your nose or mouth.
This is where frequent hand-washing comes in. The more often you wash your hands, the less likely you are to infect yourself if you’ve touched something that had virus on it, and to give any virus you may have to someone else.
- Unless you’re a health care worker or you have flu symptoms, don’t wear a mask
If you’re healthy, wearing a mask is unlikely to help you in most situations, especially if you don’t wear a new one each time you go out. On the other hand, masks have been shown to protect health care workers who may be exposed to the coronavirus and other illnesses in the course of their work. Because of panic over the new virus, some health officials are concerned about a shortage of masks for those health care workers who need them most – and if they get infected, the disease is likelier to spread.
In other words, though it’s counterintuitive, wearing a mask when you don’t need one could actually increase your chances of getting the coronavirus, or another virus. If you’re coughing or sneezing, though, wearing a mask may prevent you from sharing your cold or flu with anyone else. In Asia, many people wear masks because it’s considered polite to do so if you have cold or flu symptoms.
Kim Patra is a qualified health consultant who has been living and working in Bali for over 30 years. She now runs her own private practice in Sanur.
Copyright © 2020 Kim Patra
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