The coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2), can cause the disease Covid-19 (Corona). Covid-19 stands for ‘Coronavirus disease 2019’. Most patients with this virus have fever and respiratory problems. The disease is so prevalent that from March 11, 2020, the corona pandemic officially occurs. Measures are being taken worldwide to prevent further spread of the virus.
Covid-19 is believed to be a zoonosis. That means it's transferable from vertebrates to humans. The coronavirus has most likely been spread from an exotic animal in China to humans.
Between people, disease transmission occurs because the virus spreads from the mouth and pharynx of an infected person through mucus in fluid droplets in the air by, among other things, sneezing and coughing. By touching the face with the hands, it is possible to contaminate each other by mutual contact, and possibly also through contaminated surfaces. Fecal contamination is uncertain.
The incubation period is one to twelve days; fourteen days is taken for security. There are incidental reports from Chinese researchers of a possible longer incubation period of up to twenty-four days. The disease is highly contagious.
The disease is characterized by flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain and fatigue. Loss of smell and taste may also occur. The disease affects the lungs. In severe cases, it leads to viral pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis, kidney failure and septic shock that may be fatal.
The majority of patients have no, mild or moderate symptoms, develop antibodies between six to twelve days and then become more resistant to the virus (immune) for a period of time. Fewer antibodies may be produced in case of mild symptoms. Mild symptoms include a sore throat, mild cough and an increase in body temperature to 38.0 °C.
The diagnosis of Covid-19 is based of the following tests:
- PCR-test (Polymerase chain reaction test). The standard diagnostic method is by means of a reverse PCR-test (rRT-PCR) on a sputum sample or a nasopharyngeal swab.
- Antibody test. An antibody prevents the virus from infecting a person. An antibody against SARS-CoV-2 has been discovered that can help detect and prevent Covid-19.
- Radiology. In an X-ray examination, a normal image may be indicative of suspicion of pneumonia. In the case of a proven Covid-19 infection, a CT scan is often performed, as it may detect changes before they are visible on a normal image. Characteristic are opaque changes of the lung parenchym that resemble milk glass.
As yet, there is no proven cure for the disease, therefore patients are placed in (home) isolation. However, the symptoms can be reduced, so that the immune system gains time to fight the virus.
In the case of serious infections, existing drugs against other diseases and viruses may be administered to patients, such as malaria (chloroquine), ebola (the experimental remdesivir) and HIV (lopinavir/ritonavir). In very seriously ill patients, complications of the disease may occur, such as a bacterial superinfection. These patients are given antibiotics for this. Some of the patients need extra oxygen through ventilation.
A vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not yet available.
Four out of five people who contract Covid-19 have a mild course and the disease cures in about two weeks. People with serious symptoms generally need more time to recover (three to six weeks).
Potential risk factors for a poor prognosis include higher age, high SOFA score and a d-dimer amount greater than 1 μg/ml. Among those who died from Covid-19, many had pre-existing conditions, including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The average time of initial symptoms to death was fourteen days.
The main measures that can be taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus:
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water.
- Cough and sneeze inside the elbow.
- Use paper handkerchiefs.
- Don’t shake hands.
- Stay at home if you have a cold.
- Social distancing: keep sufficient distance from each other (minimal 1.5 meters or two arm lengths).
These measures apply to all viruses that may cause flu and colds, so it’s always important to follow these.
- The outbreak of the new coronavirus started in December 2019 in the Wuhan region of China.
- The coronavirus is a common cold virus. Only there are also special forms of that virus. For example, SARS and MERS are both diseases caused by a coronavirus. Covid-19 can now also be added to that list.
- There are some cases worldwide of pets infected with the new coronavirus, including cats and dogs.