On the last day of the year in 2019, when the world eagerly awaited the beginning of a new decade, officials at World Health Organization were notified about the outbreak of a disease in China. Authorities in the country witnessed an unusual spike in cases of pneumonia caused by a hitherto unknown virus.
The outbreak began in the port city of Wuhan, home to close to 11 million people. The virus was first seen in those who worked at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. On January 1st, the market was shut down, it was assumed the infection was spread from sea animals to humans aka zoonotic spread of infection.
It was only a week later, on January 7th, that the authorities discovered that infection they were dealing with, was caused by a new member of the coronavirus family. The new virus was called 2019 novel coronavirus, later named as COVID-19.
What is Coronavirus?
A Virus that belong to the Coronavirus family usually cause respiratory tract infection. It is called as ‘corona’, due to the presence of spikes on its surface alluding to the appearance of a crown. There are 7 types of Coronavirus that cause infections in humans
1) 229E (alpha coronavirus)
2) NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
3) OC43 (beta coronavirus)
4) HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
5) MERS-CoV (beta coronavirus causing Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome)
6) SARS-CoV (beta coronavirus causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)
7) SARS-CoV- 2 (COVID-19)
Symptoms of COVID-19
COVID-19 causes respiratory tract infection and the following symptoms are seen in the early stage
- Dry Cough
- Body aches and pain
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Sore throat
- Loss of Taste and or Smell
- Some patients have also reported nausea, runny nose and diarrhea
- (source: WHO)
However, when the disease advances, the following has been seen
Shortness of breath
Congestion in chest
The latency period (period between acquiring the virus and reflection of symptoms) is anywhere between 2 to 14 days. Scientists are yet to confirm if this disease originated from animals and spread to humans or otherwise.
Is COVID-19 fatal?
According to the Situation Report published by WHO in March, the disease has a crude mortality rate of 3-4%. While the percentage seems low, with rising cases, this could be a cause for concern, as mortality rate associated with coronavirus is higher than that of influenza.
Patients above the age of 60 and those with pre-existing medical conditions such as cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, high blood pressure and cancer are vulnerable.
“WHO” is responsible for this?
As the number of cases and the death tally rise, the role of World Health Organization has come under the scanner. Taiwan has accused the UN health body of failing to act on its warning regarding the spread of the virus. Taiwan says it had informed WHO that the virus had a human-to-human transmission on December 31st, however the message was allegedly not relayed to other countries.
WHO has also been accused of dragging its feet on several critical junctures. Many believe the announcement of the pandemic status of the disease came too late. Others believe, WHO failed to critically access the situation in China, in turn leading to spread of infection globally.