In early January, the WHO China Country Office was notified of an pneumonia of unknown cause, discovered in patients who were mostly dealers or vendors at the Huanan Seafood Market in the city of Wuhan in Hubei Province. An increasing number of infected individuals were reported each day, quickly making the city the epicenter of the outbreak. Not long after, the neighboring countries, including Singapore, Republic of Korea, Japan, and Thailand, began reporting its first cases of this disease. China began implementing strict measures to prevent further trasmission, and after some time, the number of new daily cases began to decrease. Nevertheless, the country suffered a major tragedy with more than 3,000 dead and 81,000 infected, with the numbers still rising. Despite China's situation, the disease continued to spread globally. Countries began to announce new cases each day, and Europe, noticeably Italy, became the new hotspot for transmissions. In mid-March, the WHO declared the region as the new epicenter of the pandemic as the number of daily cases surpassed those of China's, even at the peak of its epidemic.1 The WHO currently publishes daily reports which include highlights and updates on each country's situation here.
So, what is this disease?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus diease (COVID-19) is "an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. However, there are many ongoing clinical trials evaluating potential treatments."
As the disease is primarily spread through droplets of saliva or nose discharge, the WHO has listed some preventive measures to slow down the transmission:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
- Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Stay home if you feel unwell.
- Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
- Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.
Common symptoms include:
- dry cough.
Other symptoms include:
- shortness of breath
- aches and pains
- sore throat
- and very few people will report diarrhoea, nausea or a runny nose.
People with mild symptoms who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate and contact their medical provider or a COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.People with fever, cough or difficulty breathing should call their doctor and seek medical attention.