What is Coronavirus?

The word ‘Coronavirus’ is used to describe a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe symptoms. Recently, it has been used to describe the novel coronavirus (nCoV) or Covid 19. The number 19 refers to the year it started, which was 2019 in Wuhan, China. This virus has since spread around the world through close human-to-human contact. The World Health Organization has labelled this event as a pandemic, which means there are a lot of people around the world that have been infected. 

How Likely Is It For You to Get Coronavirus?

The speed at which this disease spreads between people is called the transmission rate. Transmission of the disease is measured by a reproductive number, which is the average number of people that will get infected by ONE infectious person. The reproductive number for Covid19 is estimated to be between 2-4, which means that ONE infected person is likely to spread it to another 2-4 people. Just as a comparison, the seasonal flu has a reproductive number of approx 1, whereas Covid19 is 2-4, this means that Covid19 can spread more rapidly than the seasonal flu. 

Coronavirus (Covid19) symptoms & how to protect yourself

How Does Coronavirus Spread?

The coronavirus spreads via droplets. So, an infected person coughing or sneezing on you can cause the spread of infection. But more importantly, an infected person coughing or sneezing onto a surface is even more dangerous, because the virus can remain active on that surface for days! So if you touch a surface where an infected person has sneezed on, and then you touch your face, then you’re at risk of getting the virus.

This virus particles bind to receptors in the eyes, nose and mouth called the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors. Once there, the virus particles try to invade your cells. Once it does, it copies (replicates) itself and that is how it can be spread. Before an infected person shows any symptoms, the virus can be detected in a person’s saliva. Unfortunately, this means people can have and spread the virus, even if they have no symptoms.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

The MAIN form of protection is hand hygiene, especially before touching your face. You don’t have to use special antibacterial soap, because this is a viral infection, not a bacterial infection. The soap you normally use every-day is enough to kill or remove the virus from your hands. But for this to happen, proper handwashing is necessary, which means you must wash your hands for 20 seconds (don’t forget to rub in between your fingers, under your nails and around your wrists). A little trick to avoid touching your face subconsciously is to pretend you are wearing gloves on your hands, you’ll become more self-aware about your hands touching your face.

Protect yourself from coronavirus by washing your hands frequently

Other precautions include covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue or your elbow (not your hands!) and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. Avoid touching unnecessary surfaces if you can, or wash your hands after. This includes gym equipment, elevator buttons, communal computers/keyboards, bus or train seats and poles.

Important Note: Masks worn by the general public are not recommended. The only people wearing a mask should be the people who are sick or showing symptoms. BUT, if you are sick or showing symptoms, then you shouldn’t be out in public in the first place. By stepping outside while you have symptoms, you’re not only putting yourself at risk of getting more ill, but you’re also potentially putting HUNDREDS of other people at risk around you.

If you or someone you know is genuinely sick, call your local health centre. A lot of doctors are now doing consultations via the phone or Skype. In the meantime, stay at home and isolate yourself. If you choose to wear a mask, depending on the type of mask, please remember to change your mask regularly because most of them will lose their effectiveness after a few minutes as they get damp. Also, avoid touching the mask surface itself, dispose of them properly and wash your hands immediately after. 

Wearing a mask in public doesn't protect you from coronavirus

How Do I Know If I Have Coronavirus?

Coronavirus symptoms may include fever, dry cough, and muscle pain or fatigue. Less common symptoms include phlegm production, headaches, coughing up blood, and diarrhea (therefore, you can lay off buying all that toilet paper).

What Happens If I Get Coronavirus? Will I Die?

Most people who catch Covid19 will recover fully. We don’t exactly know how many people will be seriously affected, but a suggested fatality rate is 3-4%. At the moment Covid-19 is likely to have a severe effect on the older population, older males in particular. Adults are affected a lot more than children. Pregnant women are at the same risk as non-pregnant women. We also know people with heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and people who are immunocompromised are at a higher risk and less likely to recover from the virus. Older people with existing medical conditions are at the greatest risk at the moment, with reports showing mortality rates of up to 18%.

So to answer your question “Will I die from coronavirus?” Well, if you are young and fairly healthy, then no, you most likely won’t die from Covid19. But this doesn’t mean you won’t get the virus. You will most likely get the virus even if you’re young. The risk here is that the younger population can spread the virus to the older population who ARE at risk of dying from it. SO PLEASE, BE CAREFUL regardless of your age.

On a side note, if you want to prepare yourself for Coronavirus symptoms before you get forced into self-isolation, read the following article by Dr. Sanya Arora, click here.

Why is The Government Cancelling Large Events? Is This an Over-Reaction?

Many countries around the globe have announced a ban on non-essential events of more than 500 people. In an outbreak, social distancing and staying at home helps slow down the spread of infection. This is necessary because it flattens the curve. You may have heard the term “flattening the curve”, what does it mean?

flattening the curve to protect against coronavirus

Flattening the curve means we need to SLOW down the spread of infection. This is important because our healthcare system has a capacity as to how many patients can be treated every day. Hospitals have a limited number of rooms, beds, respirators, hospital staff, doctors and nurses. If everyone gets sick at the same time, the healthcare system will get overwhelmed by patients. Unfortunately, some patients won’t get the treatment they need because there won’t be enough space for them in the hospitals. This may lead to many deaths, especially in the older population. HOWEVER, if we slow the spread of the virus over a longer period of time, then the healthcare system won’t become overwhelmed. This means that people will still get infected, but not ALL at once. The hospital has the resources to treat patients over the course of a few months, just not all at once.

Do I Need to PANIC?

The simple answer is NO. Please do not panic, and please do not hoard food and toilet paper! The Dental Pen team has created a guide on what food you should buy to maintain a healthy diet over the course of the coronavirus lock-down, click here to read that article.

Yes, this situation is scary but don’t forget that the majority of infected people HAVE recovered from Covid19. So stay positive and practice good hand hygiene. The world has gone through pandemics before and we can certainly go through it again, except this time, we need to be smarter about self-isolating to protect ourselves and our country. Besides, we have a ton of entertainment to distract ourselves at home (Hello Netflix). So take this time to relax your mind, body and soul.

Take-Home Message

The Covid19 outbreak is a reality of our current situation, and we need to accept the fact that it will cause disruption to our daily lives. But in the meantime, scientists are trying to make a vaccine, and medical professionals are working hard to manage a large number of patients. The least you can do as a responsible member of society is to perform good hand hygiene and practice social distancing. These habits can potentially save someone’s life.

Protect yourself from coronavirus by washing your hands frequently

Remember to stay calm, take care of each other by sharing resources like food and toilet paper. Try to check in on your friends and family, and don’t forget to check-in on your elderly neighbours via a phone call. Most importantly, wash your hands frequently, especially before touching your face. And lastly, avoid large public gatherings.

The Dental Pen team has created a guide on what food you should buy to maintain a healthy diet over the course of the coronavirus lock-down, click here to read that article.

Written by: Dr. Amanda Phoon Nguyen and Dr. Sanya Arora

References and Further Reading 


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