Coronavirus: What it Means to You

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Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, might be causing you a lot of anxiety. Being labeled a “pandemic” isn’t helping. Also, there is no vaccine to help our bodies fight it, it has just roosted in Rutherford County, and there are so many unanswered questions. Here is some information from reliable sources about what experts know so far.

What is a Pandemic?

Recently, there was a CBS news presentation on fact vs fiction concerning the COVID-19 virus. One of the items they discussed and explained well was what it means when the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes a disease as a pandemic. What it means is that an epidemic has reached around the world.

The only pandemic we learn of in school is the infamous plague of the 14th century, which wiped out half the population of Europe, but there have been many others. We have flu pandemics whenever a new strain emerges, like in 1919, 1956-1958, 1968, and 2007. While it is not the flu, COVID-19 is being compared to the flu because the symptoms are so similar, and they are both coronaviruses.

By labeling something a pandemic, the level of public awareness increases because the more the public in general rises to the occasion and employs prevention methods put out by WHO and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the more chance of stopping contagion.

Why Do I Need to Follow the Hand Washing Guidelines?

While there is still much we do not know about COVID-19, we do know that it is not airborne. It is spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The coughing and sneezing are the thing that is important here. A sneeze can project up to six feet. The viral particles are then taken in through the nose, eyes, and mouth and attach to receptor cells at the back of the throat, growing from there. This is why it is SO important to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze. It is best to sneeze into a Kleenex and throw it away.

Another thing we know is that the life of the virus on surfaces is longer than other viruses. On stainless steel and plastic, it can live up to three days according to tests run by scientists in the United States. On other surfaces the staying power of the virus varies, beginning with a few hours.

How does the virus work?

The Washington Post recently ran an article about how viruses act, and they quote several experts, including Vincent Munster, chief of the Virus Ecology Section of Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

He notes that the higher the intensity of the exposure, the more likely you are to catching the disease. Gary Whittaker, an infectious disease expert at Cornell University was quoted as saying that typically it takes “an army of viruses going in” to break through the natural defenses of a human being, which include mucus that lines airways. He was further quoted as saying, “We’re talking about thousands or tens of thousands of particles to infect an animal or a person.”

Once the virus gets ahold of human cells, it holds on for dear life and then, as Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center says in The New York Times, the virus will “hijack the metabolism of the cell and say, in effect, ‘Don’t do your usual job. Your job now is to help me multiply and make the virus.’”

Schaffner goes on to explain that the disease then starts in the throat and moves into the lungs. It can damage the lungs, and then move into other parts of the body creating inflammation. Those with pre-existing conditions are more susceptible as they have less power to fight the increasing strength of the disease.

What makes this disease so hard to curb is that it has a five to 14-day incubation period when those carrying it do not know they are sick. That is why it is so important to curb public contact, the less contact, the less chance of exposure.

In a recent interview with Schaffner by Channel 5 in Nashville, the doctor noted that if you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, not to go to an emergency room or doctor’s office, but to call your doctor to ask about how to self-isolate. If emergency services are needed because symptoms are severe, the ambulance service needs to know that COVID-19 may be involved so EMTs can be prepared both to treat the patient effectively and to ensure their own safety.

A few good things to know are that you can love on your furry friends, as you cannot get it from your dog or cat. It is also not transferable from mosquitos. A good thing to know with summer coming on.

What is America’s Strategy for Fighting the Virus?

The strategy in the United States is using to slow the spread of the coronavirus is social distancing. Research done on the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919 shows that there were a fraction of the deaths in St. Louis, which employed social distancing, compared to Philadelphia, which initially did not.

During the 1918-1919 pandemic, personal hygiene was also introduced to stem transmission in the form of hand washing and keeping personal space clean. We have learned from that, as well as what has been helpful in other countries. Hand washing must be for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water, or the use of hand sanitizer that is 60% alcohol.

Surfaces can be kept clean with bleach-based wipes, or a blend of one third cup bleach in one gallon of water. Remember that bleach removes color, and should not be mixed with ammonia or any other cleansers.

More Information Resources

This is only a small part of the information available about COVID-19. To learn more, go to the CDC’s website and WHO’s website.

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