By Kiriinjju Magezi
Coronavirus is a family of viruses which causes illness in animals or humans. In humans, coronavirus is known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
It was first detected in Wahun Province, China in December last year by a group of Doctors who shared the medical details of patients on their WhatsApp chat group. Researchers believe COVID-19 probably mutated from a corona virus common in animals and jumped over to humans in the Wuhan ‘WET MARKET.
Patients who came down with the disease at the end of December all had connections to the Huanan Sea food Market in Wuhan. Scientists suspect the probable source of the virus to be either bats or pangolins.
According to biologist, Kevin Olival of Eco-Health Alliance, “WET MARKETS” in the region often have many different kinds of animals, wild and domestic but not necessarily native to that part of Asia. COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when an infected person coughs or exhales.
When these droplets land on objects and surfaces and other people touch them, they catch COVID-19 by in turn touching their own eyes, noses and mouths. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a sick person who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a sick person. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.
These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually and can be mistaken for the common flue. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) especially young and energetic ones recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people of 65 years and above and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illness even die of the disease if not diagnosed and treated early.
Protective measures include staying aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak globally through local and international alerts. If possible, avoid traveling to hotspots especially if you are an older person of 65 plus or have diabetes, heart or lung disease. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water to kill viruses that may be on your hands. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing to avoid small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth because hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses.
Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick. Make sure you practice good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the used tissue immediately. Stay home if you feel unwell and if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and adhere to the directives of Ministry of Health. So far, there is no evidence that current medicines can prevent or cure COVID-19.
Therefore, those affected only receive care to relieve symptoms. According to corona viruses expert Dr Gabriel Matthew Leung who was instrumental in fighting SARS, the best way a country like Uganda can do to fight COVID-19 is to have enough Intensive Care Units, well ventilated health facilities and good drugs to relieve the symptoms. He warns that 6% of the world population could get infected and over 40 million people could die if the outbreak is not arrested soon.
According to World Health Organization, corona virus poses a greater threat than terrorism and should be declared world public enemy number one. COVID-19 has already killed more people in seven weeks than Ebola did in two years in the second worst outbreak in DR Congo. As of yesterday, there have been 107,897 confirmed cases, 60,000 people managed to recover but more than 3,658 have died globally. The virus has affected world markets, caused City lock downs, cancellation of international events and social distancing among communities. However, in Uganda, no case has been confirmed. Ministry of health Uganda should be commended for double efforts in prevention.
The Writer is a Communication Assistant at Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.