Interesting Facts About The 2019–20 Coronavirus Pandemic
It is no longer news that the deadly virus, coronavirus has killed thousands of people around the world currently, and more are still counting.
The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).[b] The outbreak started in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, as early as November 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and recognized it as a pandemic on 11 March 2020. As of 8 April 2020, approximately 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 209 countries and territories, resulting in approximately 87,700 deaths. About 317,000 people have recovered.
The virus is mainly spread during close contact[c] and by small droplets produced when those infected cough,[d] sneeze or talk. These droplets may also be produced during breathing; however, they rapidly fall to the ground or surfaces and are not generally spread through the air over large distances. People may also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their face. The virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours. Coronavirus is most contagious during the first three days after onset of symptoms, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear and in later stages of the disease.
Common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Complications may include pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The time from exposure to onset of symptoms is typically around five days, but may range from two to 14 days. There is no known vaccine or specific antiviral treatment. Primary treatment is symptomatic and supportive therapy.
Recommended preventive measures include hand washing, covering one’s mouth when coughing, maintaining distance from other people, and monitoring and self-isolation for people who suspect they are infected. Authorities worldwide have responded by implementing travel restrictions, quarantines, curfews, workplace hazard controls, and facility closures.
The pandemic has led to severe global socioeconomic disruption, the postponement or cancellation of sporting, religious, political and cultural events, and widespread fears of supply shortages resulting in panic buying. Schools and universities have closed either on a nationwide or local basis in 193 countries, affecting approximately 99.4 percent of the world’s student population. Misinformation about the virus has spread online, and there have been incidents of xenophobia and discrimination against Chinese people, other people of East and Southeast Asian descent and appearance, and others from areas with significant virus cases. Due to reduced travel and closures of heavy industry, there has been a decrease in air pollution and carbon emissions, which has had a beneficial effect on the environment.
Health authorities in Wuhan, China (the capital of Hubei province) reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause on 31 December 2019, and an investigation was launched in early January 2020. The cases mostly had links to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and so the virus is thought to have a zoonotic origin. The virus that caused the outbreak is known as SARS-CoV-2, a newly discovered virus closely related to bat coronaviruses, pangolin coronaviruses, and SARS-CoV.
The earliest known person with symptoms was later discovered to have fallen ill on 1 December 2019, and that person did not have visible connections with the later wet market cluster. Of the early cluster of cases reported in December 2019, two-thirds were found to have a link with the market. On 13 March 2020, an unverified report from the South China Morning Post suggested that a case traced back to 17 November 2019, in a 55-year-old from Hubei province, may have been the first.
On 26 February 2020, the WHO reported that, as new cases reportedly declined in China but suddenly increased in Italy, Iran, and South Korea, the number of new cases outside China had exceeded the number of new cases within China for the first time. There may be substantial underreporting of cases, particularly among those with milder symptoms. By 26 February, relatively few cases had been reported among youths, with those 19 and under making up 2.4% of cases worldwide.
The United Kingdom’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, estimated that 60% of the British population would need to become infected before effective herd immunity could be achieved.
Cases refers to the number of people who have been tested for COVID-19, and whose test has been confirmed positive according to official protocols. As of 23 March, no country had tested more than 3% of its population, and many countries have had official policies not to test those with only mild symptoms, such as Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. A study published on 16 March found that in China, up to 23 January, an estimated 86% of COVID-19 infections had not been detected, and that these undocumented infections were the infection source for 79% of documented cases. A subsequent study published 30 March found that estimated numbers of infections in Italy were, by 28 March, over 50 times more than the reported cases (i.e. 5.9 million infected, versus 90,000 reported cases by 28 March).
Most people with COVID-19 recover. For those who do not, the time from development of symptoms to death has been between 6 and 41 days, with the most common being 14 days. As of 8 April 2020, approximately 87,700 deaths had been attributed to COVID-19. In China, as of 5 February about 80% of deaths were in those over 60, and 75% had pre-existing health conditions including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Official tallies of deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic generally refer to dead people who tested positive for COVID according to official protocols. The number of true fatalities from COVID-19 may be much higher, as it may not include people who die without testing – e.g. at home, in nursing homes, etc. Partial data from Italy found that the number of excess deaths during the pandemic exceeded the official COVID death tally by a factor of 4-5x. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Center of Disease Control acknowledged “We know that [the stated death toll] is an underestimation”, a statement corroborated by anecdotal reports of undercounting in the U.S. Such underestimation often occurs in pandemics, such as the 2009 H1N1 swine flu epidemic.
The first confirmed death was on 9 January 2020 in Wuhan. The first death outside mainland China occurred on 1 February in the Philippines, and the first death outside Asia was in France on 14 February. By 28 February, outside mainland China, more than a dozen deaths each were recorded in Iran, South Korea, and Italy. By 13 March, more than forty countries and territories had reported deaths, on every continent except Antarctica.
Several measures are commonly used to quantify mortality. These numbers vary by region and over time, and are influenced by the volume of testing, healthcare system quality, treatment options, time since initial outbreak, and population characteristics such as age, sex, and overall health.
The death-to-case ratio reflects the number of deaths divided by the number of diagnosed cases within a given time interval. Based on Johns Hopkins University statistics, the global death-to-case ratio is 5.8% (87,706/1,500,830) as of 8 April 2020. The number varies by region. In China, estimates for the death-to-case ratio decreased from 17.3% (for those with symptom onset 1–10 January 2020) to 0.7% (for those with symptom onset after 1 February 2020).
Other measures include the case fatality rate (CFR), which reflects the percent of diagnosed people who die from a disease, and the infection fatality rate (IFR), which reflects the percent of infected (diagnosed and undiagnosed) who die from a disease. These statistics are not timebound and follow a specific population from infection through case resolution. A number of academics have attempted to calculate these numbers for specific populations. Some researchers have also attempted to estimate the IFR for the pandemic as a whole.
The WHO asserts that the pandemic can be controlled. The peak and ultimate duration of the outbreak are uncertain and may differ by location. Maciej Boni of Penn State University stated, “Left unchecked, infectious outbreaks typically plateau and then start to decline when the disease runs out of available hosts. But it’s almost impossible to make any sensible projection right now about when that will be”. The Chinese government’s senior medical adviser Zhong Nanshan argued that “it could be over by June” if all countries can be mobilized to follow the WHO’s advice on measures to stop the spread of the virus. On March 17, Adam Kucharski of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine stated that SARS-CoV-2 “is going to be circulating, potentially for a year or two”. According to the Imperial College study led by Neil Ferguson, physical distancing and other measures will be required “until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more)”. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University stated, “I think it’s unlikely that this coronavirus—because it’s so readily transmissible—will disappear completely” and it “might turn into a seasonal disease, making a comeback every year”. The virulence of the comeback would depend on herd immunity and the extent of mutation.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of COVID-19 can be relatively non-specific and infected people may be asymptomatic. The two most common symptoms are fever (88%) and dry cough (68%). Less common symptoms include fatigue, respiratory sputum production (phlegm), loss of the sense of smell, shortness of breath, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headache, chills, vomiting, hemoptysis, diarrhea, or cyanosis.
The WHO states that approximately one person in six becomes seriously ill and has difficulty breathing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists emergency symptoms as difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, sudden confusion, difficulty waking, and bluish face or lips; immediate medical attention is advised if these symptoms are present.
Further development of the disease can lead to severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, septic shock and death. Some of those infected may be asymptomatic, with no clinical symptoms but test results that confirm infection, so researchers have issued advice that those with close contact to confirmed infected people should be closely monitored and examined to rule out infection. Chinese estimates of the asymptomatic ratio range from few to 44%. The usual incubation period (the time between infection and symptom onset) ranges from one to 14 days; it is most commonly five days.
As an example of uncertainty, the estimate of the fraction of people with COVID-19 who lost their sense of smell was initially 30% and later fell to 15%.
Some details about how the disease is spread are still being determined. The disease is believed to be primarily spread during close contact and by small droplets produced during coughing, sneezing, or talking; with close contact being within 1 to 2 metres (3 to 6 feet). Studies have found that an uncovered coughing can lead to droplets travelling up to 4.5 metres (15 feet) to 8.2 metres (27 feet). Some have proposed that the virus may also be transmitted by small droplets that stay for more prolonged periods in the air, that may be generated during speech.
Respiratory droplets may also be produced during breathing out, including when talking, though the virus is not generally airborne. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Some medical procedures such as intubation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may cause respiratory secretions to be aerosolized and thus result in airborne spread. It may also spread when one touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. While there are concerns it may spread by faeces, this risk is believed to be low. The Government of China denied the possibility of faecal-oral transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
The virus is most contagious during the first 3 days after onset of symptoms, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear and in later stages of the disease. People have tested positive for the disease up to 3 days before onset of symptoms suggesting transmission is possible before developing significant symptoms. Only few reports of laboratory-confirmed asymptomatic cases exist, but asymptomatic transmission has been identified by some countries during contact tracing investigations. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) states that while it is not entirely clear how easily the disease spreads, one person generally infects two to three others.
The virus survives for hours to days on surfaces. Specifically, the virus was found to be detectable for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel, for one day on cardboard, and for up to four hours on copper. This, however, varies based on the humidity and temperature.
Pets and other animals (including a tiger) have tested positive for COVID-19, and in some cases the virus was transmitted from humans to the animals, but there is no clear evidence that animals can pass the virus on to humans.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, first isolated from three people with pneumonia connected to the cluster of acute respiratory illness cases in Wuhan. All features of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus occur in related coronaviruses in nature.
Outside the human body, the virus is killed by household soap, which dissolves its protective envelope.
SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to the original SARS-CoV. It is thought to have a zoonotic origin. Genetic analysis has revealed that the coronavirus genetically clusters with the genus Betacoronavirus, in subgenus Sarbecovirus (lineage B) together with two bat-derived strains. It is 96% identical at the whole genome level to other bat coronavirus samples (BatCov RaTG13). In February 2020, Chinese researchers found that there is only one amino acid difference in certain parts of the genome sequences between the viruses from pangolins and those from humans. However, whole-genome comparison to date has found at most 92% of genetic material shared between pangolin coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2, which is insufficient to prove pangolins to be the intermediate host.