COVID-19: Introduction

COVID-19 is a worldwide disease which has affected most countries in the world and these pages records various aspects of the historic pandemic event for posterity.

COVID-19: Part 1 – Background Information

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is the name of the respiratory illness that’s caused by the SARS Coronavirus known as SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1.

The spread of a new variant of a SARS virus became apparent in early 2020 and is thought to have originated from a source in China (first identified in December 2019). This variant of the virus is called Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and causes the illness known as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

(Image Credit: CDC Alissa Eckert, MSMI; Dan Higgins, MAMS)

This variant of the virus has since spread worldwide, leading to the current pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic on 11th March 2020


Symptoms

COVID-19 symptoms range from mild to severe with the top 3 currently defined by the NHS as

o High temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

o New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

o Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Most people with COVID-19 have at least 1 of these symptoms.

Other symptoms which may occur include:

o Loss of appetite

o Fatigue

o Shortness of breath

o Muscle aches and pains

Around one in five people are infected with the virus but do not develop noticeable symptoms and are called asymptomatic carriers.


Transmission and Prevention

Airborne transmission of respiratory droplets is the most likely form of transferring COVID-19 from an infected person through talking, coughing, sneezing etc. while in close contact with other people for a period of time. The virus can enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes.

Social distancing and the wearing of cloth face masks, surgical masks, respirators, or other face coverings are controls to help prevent droplet transmission.

It also may be possible for a person to become infected by COVID-19 after touching a surface or object that has the virus on it (fomite transmission) and then touching their mouth, nose, or their eyes. The viable active virus on the surface will decrease over time until it is no longer active.

Frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water for 20 seconds or so helps to prevent fomite transmission.

The advice from the World Health Organisation, to help prevent infection, states:

The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by maintaining physical distance of at least 1 metre from others and frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

Masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress transmission and save lives; the use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection against COVID-19. If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue


The devolved countries in the UK: Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all have their own mechanisms for reporting on COVID-19. They also have the power to implement measures to control the virus in ways that they deem necessary, which may be different to those measures taken in England.

General advice issued by the UK Governement is:

References

NHS information and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19)

UK Government – Coronavirus (COVID‑19)

WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic

The effect of temperature on persistence of SARS-CoV-2 on common surfaces