A lot has been said about the Coronavirus these days (COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2), but what exactly is this virus?
The COVID-19 virus causes acute respiratory disease, which was first observed in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
The symptoms it causes vary, most often with fever, cough (usually dry) and shortness of breath. Less common symptoms are headache, lack of taste and smell, runny nose, expectoration, muscle weakness. The severity of symptoms in the majority of patients is mild, but unfortunately there are cases of disease progression to viral pneumonia which can lead to acute respiratory failure (ARDS), multi-organ failure syndrome and septic shock.
The virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets from person to person, during coughing, sneezing or even speaking. It has been found that the virus can survive for 2-3 days on metal and plastic surfaces, while in the air it can survive up to approximately 3 hours.
The incubation time ranges between 2-14 days, while the average incubation time is 5 days.
The target organ of the virus is the lungs, via the Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2)
The diagnosis is made with the application of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), after taking a sample (smear) of the patient from the nasopharyngeal cavity, ideally, while it can also be taken from the oropharynx; the sputum or tracheal material is used in intubated patients.
Suspicious patients are those who combine symptomatology, risk factors and imaging findings (X-ray or CT scan) possibly positive even when the PCR test is negative.
A vaccine has not yet been developed, although numerous laboratories around the world are working in this direction.
The basic recommendation to the general population is precaution through personal hygiene and hand sanitization. The use of the mask is also important, especially in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
It is prudent for people who suspect they may be carrying the virus to seek medical advice over the phone, at first, to avoid unnecessary transitions to hospitals, so as to prevent spreading the virus.
No drug has yet been discovered to offer a cure, while treatment is currently symptomatic and supportive, although several formulations are being tested.
Initial studies highlight the need for Intensive Care Unit treatment in 25% of patients and a mortality rate of 2% in China, while outside China the rate is estimated to be lower, with small differences from country to country.