President Donald Trump takes questions a news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus … [+]
Topline: Covid-19 has been dominating headlines across much of the world over recent weeks as it continues to rattle global markets, trigger quarantines of millions of people, disrupt supply chains, hamper business activity and impact our daily working lives. Here’s how it all started, and what you need to know:
How and where did Covid-19 start?
The Covid-19 disease was first discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year at a wet market (which may resemble a farmers’ market) selling produce, meat and fish.
The novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in bats, according to the CDC, and passed on through an animal that has not yet been identified. The previously unknown disease has since been transmitted from human to human and has spread to more than 100 countries. You can find the complete list here.
This week, the World Health Organization, classified the illness a pandemic, i.e. the worldwide spread of a new disease, according to the WHO.
What is a coronavirus, and why is this one named Covid-19?
The new virus, named SARS-Cov-2, causes the respiratory disease known as Covid-19. Covid-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019.” You may have seen the virus informally referred to as the “Wuhan” virus or “China” virus, but Chinese leaders, and the WHO, has strongly warned against geographical associations, to avoid stigma towards the region.
There have been previous coronavirus outbreaks, such as the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, and the MERS outbreak in 2012.
How does it spread?
The disease is spread through cough and sneeze droplets from an infected person, and you may catch it if you come into close contact and breathe them in.
What are the symptoms?
Most people are likely to experience mild symptoms, which include coughing, sneezing, breathing difficulties, and a fever, and well as muscle pain. In serious cases, the disease can progress to kidney failure, pneumonia and death.
The elderly and those with chronic or underlying health issues are more vulnerable to contracting more serious symptoms, and people who are less at risk are strongly advised to be mindful of this.
The median incubation period for the disease is believed to be 5.1 days, and some people might have the virus without yet showing symptoms. A 14-day quarantine period is advised, scientists at Johns Hopkins say.
How many people have been infected to date?
More than 134,000 people worldwide have been infected with Covid-19 at time of publication, while more than 5,000 people have died. Most deaths have occurred in China although in recent weeks, the virus has taken on a more global presence with hot spots in Italy, Iran and South Korea.
How can I lower my chances of spreading and catching the illness?
The World Health Organization, which is the main coordinator of the global response to Covid-19, says you should do the following:
- Disinfect your hands by washing them frequently with soap and water, or hand sanitizer.
- Keep a distance of 3 feet between you and anyone who is coughing and sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as the virus, if picked up from surfaces, can enter your body through your eyes, nose and mouth.
- If you are coughing or sneezing, do so inside a tissue, or within the crook of your elbow.
Should I self-isolate?
If you are unwell, even slightly, you are advised to stay home and seek advice as early as possible. You can do this by calling your healthcare provider in the U.S., or visiting the NHS website in the U.K.
You may also have to self isolate if you have recently returned from a hot spot, as a precaution.
When will it be over?
It is difficult to say. China, where the virus is thought to have broken out, had the most cases, but following strict containment measures and the lockdown of 11 million people in Hubei province, the number of confirmed cases there appears to be slowing. The SARS outbreak was slowed through containment measures. But the number of cases worldwide in this novel coronavirus outbreak could be higher than the numbers that have been confirmed to date.
Time will tell whether Italy’s nationwide lockdown, which is the most extreme measure of any country, will slow the spread. Many of the new cases to spread across Europe were initially linked back to people who had recently travelled from Italy.
Harvard epidemiologist Mark Lipsitch says that at its worst point, up to 60% of the global population could be at risk of contracting the virus, even if most people experience mild symptoms. U.K. researchers say the peak could be 14 weeks away. 150 million American could contract the disease, one top U.S doctor estimates, while in the U.K. and Germany, it is estimated that up to 80% and 70%, respectively, of residents could contract the virus. But this is the worst case scenario.
So where can I find more info?
Beware misinformation online, as there are some myths floating around. We have debunked some of the top ones below. Google is providing SOS alerts to point users and removing misinformation to the most accurate and reputable news stories, as well as government and WHO guidance on the issue, as are the biggest social media sites like Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook.
What are some of the main myths (in italics) about C-19 that I should be aware of?
- A face mask will protect you from the disease: This is not wholly accurate, and the rush for facemasks could cause shortages for those who need them the most—medical professionals and the ill. The virus is not spread through air, but through contact with infected droplets, according to the WHO.
- It’s just like the flu: No. This might sound like a reassuring claim, but this coronavirus strain is new, and you might not be immune to it. Unlike the flu, there is also currently no vaccine to protect you from it, and this is at least a year away. It is important to highlight that because it is a new coronavirus, much about it remains unknown. At present, the new coronavirus appears to be more deadly than the seasonal flu.
- There is a cure for Covid-19: No. The FDA says there are no approved drugs or cures to treat the virus, so beware of companies and products claiming they can do this.
As well as more myths, there are a number of phishing scams going around, so beware. Here is a list to keep you in the know of where not to go for information.
Should I travel?
The U.S. State Department says residents should reconsider travel to Italy, and South Korea while it is telling U.S. residents not to travel to China. The CDC is also warning U.S. residents against all non-essential travel to European countries in this list.
President Donald Trump on Thursday imposed a ban on all travel from 26 countries in the European Union’s border-free Schengen zone. Residents in those countries, and those who have visited those countries within 14 days of their scheduled arrival to the United States, cannot travel. U.S. citizens, their close family members, foreign leaders and those with specific visas are exempt. Find out more here.
I’m due to attend a big event soon. Is it still on?
Tens of millions of attendees of dozens of events across the world are being affected by event cancellations. You can monitor whether yours has been cancelled using Forbes’ updated tracker, here.