Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has dominated the news, so we’re ready to help you be informed. In this blog, we’ll explore the virus’s history, virulence, prevention, and treatment. We know your students have questions, so here’s a quick introduction to the disease to spark classroom conversation, discussion, and further research.
Originating in Wuhan, China, coronavirus was first reported to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019. Though not a new family of diseases, it is a new strain of the group called coronaviruses; for this reason, we specifically refer to this one as COVID-19.
Transmitted through bodily fluids (e.g, small droplets from the nose or mouth expelled from a cough or sneeze), most people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms, especially in its early stages. Accordingly, it’s easy to transmit without knowing you have it.
How contagious and deadly is it?
Image Source: https://informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/covid-19-coronavirus-infographic-datapack/
“Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones” (WHO, 2020). Older adults and people with pre-existing conditions are generally more susceptible to COVID-19 and experience more severe effects.
Though the exact level of contagiousness is not known, it is estimated that COVID-19 has a transmission rate of 1.5-3.5, meaning someone who has it is likely to pass it to approximately two or three people before they are no longer contagious. Compared to the seasonal flu, this is nearly twice as infectious.
The fatality rate of COVID-19 is also nearly double that of the seasonal flu, with 0.7-3.4 percent of those that contract it dying. Comparatively, this is far less dangerous than the Spanish Flu, SARS, or tuberculosis. To give some perspective, 80.9 percent of cases are considered mild and require no hospitalization.
What can you do to prevent COVID-19? Simple hygiene practices are your best bet. The WHO advises that you wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with full lather up through the wrist and back of hands. Avoid crowded public spaces if possible, and cough/sneeze into your elbow/tissue instead of your hands. It is estimated that the virus can survive on a surface for several hours or up to several days, so make sure to wipe down areas or items that are frequently touched.
For now, there is no risk of animal transmission, so don’t worry about infecting your pet or becoming sick from contact with your pet.
Keep in mind, though, that since COVID-19 is viral, antibiotics will have no effect and may, in fact, make things worse for you to take without the need for it. Antiviral medications and vaccines are currently being studied, but none are available yet.
Sources: World Health Organization. Q&A on Coronaviruses (COVID-19). 9 March 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses; Information is Beautiful. COVID-19 #Coronavirus DataPack. 9 March 2020. https://informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/covid-19-coronavirus-infographic-datapack/