COVID-19. What to do and what to expect?

COVID-19. What to do and what to expect?
COVID-19. What to do and what to expect?

In Russia, more than 2 thousand cases of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been registered, in Moscow and most regions, the authorities ordered not to leave the house unnecessarily. Now everything is serious. We've updated flashcards with answers to the most pressing questions about the disease and its causative agent

The first thing to keep in mind about the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it appeared just a few months ago. Our knowledge about her is not as complete and accurate as we would like. On this score, there are reservations in the text, but one should not think that all this was written on the water with a pitchfork. Statistics are accumulating, new studies are published every day, and there is reason to believe that this is the case and not otherwise.

Something is not good for me. Am I infected?

Perhaps, but not necessarily what everyone is talking about. COVID-19 does not have symptoms inherent only to it, and some people generally become infected unnoticed. In half of the infected, the disease manifests itself after five to six days, but for some it takes only a day, for others it takes two weeks, and in about 1% of cases, it probably takes even longer. Usually, the temperature rises first, a dry cough appears, and weakness is felt. Less often, in addition to everything, the body aches, a stuffy nose, a sore throat, a runny nose and diarrhea. In a word, COVID-19 resembles an ordinary cold or flu, but in fact they can also be caught.

If you have suspicious symptoms, call an ambulance. If you find it hard to breathe, constantly presses or hurts in your chest, your face is blue or just your lips, then you need to do it immediately! You don't need to go to the hospital in order not to spread the disease.

What's so dangerous about COVID-19?

Due to the similarities to colds and flu, many are reckless about the COVID-19 pandemic. But, firstly, even in a mild form, these diseases require attention, and secondly, sometimes they give complications, and with COVID-19 this happens much more often. According to the WHO, one in five people (about 20%) has a difficult disease: due to pneumonia, fluid accumulates in the lungs, there is a feeling that there is not enough air - then medical attention is needed. In addition, critically ill patients often have acute abnormalities in the functioning of the stomach and intestines. But even what is called a mild form is not necessarily so easily tolerated: some cases with pneumonia fall into this category - just not dangerous enough to hospitalize a patient.

In Europe, not 20%, but 30% of people who have been diagnosed with an infection go to hospitals. Most likely, the difference is due to the fact that in these countries less often cases with a mild form of the disease are detected. This, too, is the danger of COVID-19.

According to several estimates, 30-50% of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 have no symptoms at all. Some people still develop them over time, but some of the infected recover without suspecting anything. Nevertheless, a seemingly healthy person spreads the virus. Calculations based on data from Singapore and the city of Tianjin indicate that half of the infections may have occurred before symptoms appeared. This is one of the main differences between SARS-CoV-2 and the first SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, the causative agents of SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome. They first made people sick, and only then infectious, so it was much easier to find and isolate those who were infected and bring outbreaks under control.

But is COVID-19 no more dangerous than seasonal flu?

Due to the fact that many cases of the disease go unnoticed, it has not yet been possible to accurately determine the characteristics of the virus. SARS-CoV-2 is probably about one and a half to two times more infectious and ten times more likely to cause death than influenza viruses. In addition, there are medications and vaccines for influenza. On average, since the end of March, more people have died from COVID-19 every day than from any other infection.

How not to get sick?

SARS-CoV-2 spreads with tiny droplets of mucus. It is believed that the main route of transmission is directly from person to person: one coughed, sneezed, or just said something - and the virus, along with saliva, got into the mouth, nose or eyes of the other. To reduce your risk, there are four rules to follow.

First, stand at least one or two meters from people, and from everyone, since the absence of symptoms does not mean anything. This distance is indicated in the official guidelines. But a recent scientific article by the physicist Lydia Buruiba of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that when you sneeze, droplets of mucus scatter seven to eight meters. Fortunately, COVID-19 patients sneeze relatively rarely, and it is not known whether enough viral particles can enter the body from such a distance.

Second, wash your hands and face more often and thoroughly. Regular soap is no worse than antibacterial soap. For the virus to collapse, you need to wait at least 20 seconds. It is also worth keeping an alcohol-based disinfectant with you. Official recommendations state that the concentration of alcohol should be 60-70%, but the experiments of Swiss scientists have shown that 30% ethanol or propanol is enough.

Soap and alcohol dry the skin, because of this, wounds can form on it, where maybe not SARS-CoV-2, but something else will get. This is not in the official recommendations, but it seems reasonable to use a cream before going to bed (at night nothing will stick to the skin).

Third, don't touch your face. This is the hardest part. Try to keep your hands busy with something like a pencil. Another trick is to smear the brush with something odorous: the smell will help you come to your senses in time. And as a last resort, you can wear rubber gloves: they discourage touching yourself.

Fourth, do not shake hands, do not hug or kiss when you meet. It is generally better to postpone meetings until better times.

Don't worry about looking stupid. There is an epidemic around, and there are already enough sad stories about people who chose to behave as if nothing had happened and paid for it.

It is also possible that you can become infected if you touch a dirty doorknob or some other thing, and then touch your face. It is known that SARS-CoV-2 remains on surfaces (especially for a long time - on plastic and stainless steel), but how dangerous it is at the same time is unclear. It is believed that the risk is low, but still exists, so outside the home it is worth touching objects as little as possible and wiping your hands with a disinfectant.

Masks don't help?

First of all, masks should be worn by patients and those who are in close contact with them. The rest of them are of little use. When masks are used for other purposes, they, on the contrary, can do harm. First, masks need to be changed frequently so that dust and harmful microorganisms do not accumulate on them. Secondly, covered faces instill anxiety in other people. Thirdly, a mask can reduce vigilance: it seems to a person that he has already secured himself, and he forgets about the recommendations.

Who is most at risk?

Apparently, you can get infected at any age, but the older the person, the higher the risk that he will become seriously ill. Particularly vulnerable are people over 70 years old and those who have diseases of the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, diabetes, cancer. The more health problems, the less chances of survival. Data for Italy as of March 19 show that only 1.2% of deaths from COVID-19 had no comorbidities. Men die much more often than women, although the ratio differs greatly from country to country. But if you are a young girl and do not complain about anything, this does not guarantee that, having become infected, you will simply lie under the covers for a couple of days.

How is COVID-19 cured?

Most likely, even if you get infected, you will get better without too many problems. But there is no cure for COVID-19. It usually takes years to develop a drug from scratch, test it, and start mass production. Even if you push, the drug will not appear at the peak of the pandemic. Perhaps an already known remedy will cope with the virus. Several drugs are undergoing clinical trials, with encouraging results, but so far nothing has been approved.

Therefore, treatment is mainly aimed at relieving symptoms, such as bringing down fever, and maintaining vital body functions in severe cases. Folk remedies, as far as we know, do not reduce the risk of infection and do not help to get back on their feet faster: overeating on garlic is useless.

Where to get a coronavirus test?

Until recently, it was impossible to do a test voluntarily. Now this service is provided by the companies "Helix", "Gemotest" and "Medsi". In Moscow, tests can be taken in all three, in other cities - wherever. None of them could be reached by phone for details, but information is available on their websites. In April, tests for SARS-CoV-2 are going to be established by "Invitro".

But before taking out your wallet, think about whether you really need this check. If you have been in contact with a COVID-19 patient or have symptoms, then you need to call an ambulance - then you will most likely be given a test for free and at home.

If you are really infected, but the disease does not make itself felt, then early diagnosis, firstly, may show a negative result due to an insufficient amount of virus in the sample for analysis, and secondly, it will not accelerate recovery (unless you can do something then take so as not to infect others), and there will be plenty of time to save your life.

If you are healthy, this does not mean that you will not get sick later.

It may make sense to do the test voluntarily if you are in one or more risk groups, you have reasonable suspicions that you could be infected, and the called medical workers for some reason did not take a smear for analysis.

Why stay at home? All these restrictions are not overkill?

During outbreaks of infectious diseases, quarantine and less stringent restrictions have been in place for several centuries. Common sense dictates: when there is no one around to infect, no one will get infected - gradually the pandemic will come to naught. In general, it works. Mathematical and statistical analyzes carried out by scientists from the PRC, the United States and the United Kingdom showed that the isolation of Wuhan slowed the spread of the virus in Chinese cities and prevented hundreds of thousands of infections, and where restrictions were imposed earlier, fewer cases of the disease were recorded. True, there is not enough data so far to understand which measures are most effective.

According to another model, developed by scientists from Imperial College London, by March 31, restrictions in 11 European countries have prevented from 21 thousand to 120 thousand deaths. The same model showed that by March 28, 7–43 million people had already become infected there, that is, 1, 88–11, 43% of the population, but their disease was mild or without symptoms at all. It is not yet possible to check these calculations: we need mass testing for the virus and antibodies to it, which are produced by the immune system. But if the simulation results are close to the truth, then this will change our understanding of the virus.

It is extremely important to slow down the spread of the disease. Without any virus and antibody tests, we know that when hospitals are overcrowded and doctors are working day and night, the proportion of deaths skyrockets. With the same number of infected people, it is much better if they get sick in turn.

The very word "pandemic" implies that this is a common cause. Earlier, a team from Imperial College London simulated the development of a pandemic, if nothing was done: in this case, by the end of 2020, almost all people on the planet would get sick, and 40 million people would die. The lives of our loved ones, the lives of strangers and how severe the consequences of the disease for society will be depend on our prudence.

When will this all end?

It is not known, but, apparently, not soon. Presumably, all or almost all people are capable of contracting SARS-CoV-2. For the virus to recede, it is necessary that a significant part of people develop immunity: either after an illness or after vaccination. Estimates vary, but in any case, billions of people are counted.

Dozens of vaccines are currently being developed, but if they appear, it will not be until next year. Whether it will be possible to make a vaccine is a big question. There are still no vaccinations that protect against similar viruses SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV. Those that tested were either ineffective or unsafe, and then development stopped due to the lack of large outbreaks and lack of funding.

It is also unclear how long the vaccine will help (it is not known how much immunity is maintained in those who have been ill) and how often the disease will return. SARS-CoV-1 no longer appeared, and the less infectious, but more lethal MERS-CoV is detected several dozen times a year, but each time the foci can be isolated.

Much depends on whether the drug appears and how quickly it happens. While there is no medicine or vaccine, all that remains is to limit physical contact between people. The example of China shows that the epidemic can be suppressed in two to three months. But the problem is that the disease will return if all restrictions are removed: most people still do not have immunity. Perhaps, until effective pharmacological agents are invented, every few months we will be forced to go home until the next outbreak dies down.

The further, the more difficult it is to maintain quarantine: staying at home is boring, things are piling up. Easy to manufacture, cheap, fast and accurate virus tests and bulk antibody testing would help. If it is reliably known that a person is healthy or cannot get infected at all, then there is no need to keep him locked up. Such tests would allow for pinpoint and shorter duration constraints.

Until then, be patient.


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