The coronavirus viral epidemic definitely isn’t humanity’s first rodeo though.
If we’re talking this millennium, we’ve already experienced a couple. In 2003 we went through SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), as well as H1N1 influenza in 2009 and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) in 2012. They all display very similar flu-like symptoms - you know, the usual suspects: Fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills. It’s terrible.
By the way, two out of those three viruses are also coronaviruses - SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV/
Like I mentioned above. This isn’t our first coronavirus outbreak.
In fact, a coronavirus is just a family of viruses.
The current coronavirus just never really got a cool name like SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV. COVID-19 is just short for “Coronavirus disease 2019”. So sad.
Anyway, coronaviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses meaning they contain one strand of a molecule called “ribonucleic acid” (RNA) that is responsible for converting the information stored in your cell’s DNA into proteins. Those proteins are needed to make duplicates of the visiting RNA.
Humans haven’t figured out on-the-spot cloning yet but viruses have.
Think of RNA as a virus’ version of DNA. They use your cells as a means to make more copies of that RNA to grow an army of Coronaviruses in your body - ‘cause strength in numbers, right?
So here’s the general journey of COVID-19:
1) Grab onto the cell’s surface using its glycoprotein “spikes” (see photo below)
2) Enter cell
You’re basically a scientist now.
What’s unique about the coronaviruses is their ability to cross species barriers. We don’t know how or why but SARS, MERS and COVID-19 all started from bats, before moving onto other animals (it all started with the camel for MERS and civet for SARS) and finally onto the good ole’ human race.
It’s almost as if the movie Contagion foreshadowed all of this.
Just like in the movie, COVID-19 is said to have originated from bats in Wuhan, China.
We don’t know how it went from bat to human but we do know why bats are originating all of these coronaviruses and why this likely came from a bat: Bats have the largest coronavirus diversity of any animal on the planet and COVID-19’s gene make-up is extremely similar to a bat virus that was found by the Chinese in some caves in China.
You may be thinking: “What are you on about? It spread to humans because Chinese people eat bat meat! I saw a video on Tiktok!!”
WRONG. It’s actually culturally unacceptable to eat bat meat in China and the vast majority of videos you’ve seen weren’t even filmed in China. Some of the most popular ones like this one and this one were filmed in Indonesia and Palau respectively.
Regardless of how it started, this is a seriously contagious virus with serious symptoms and it’s spreading very quickly. In fact, it’s proliferating faster than SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV combined.
John Hopkins University developed a gorgeous real-time dashboard that tracks and displays all of the coronavirus data you may be curious about. Here’s where we stand globally as of March 15th, 2020:
- 169k total confirmed cases
- 6.5k total deaths
- 77k total recoveries
The 3 most affected countries are China (81k cases), Italy (24k cases), and Iran (14k cases).
COVID-19 did originate in China, so no questions there, but how did Italy and Iran get the silver and bronze medals?
After signing a memorandum of understanding with China in early January 2020 to grow tourism, Italy became the European nation with the highest number of air connections with China. Right when the outbreak started - that luck. Anyhow, it all started with two Chinese tourists. Yes, yes, the rapid spread in Italy all makes sense now. Tourists don’t visit a country to sit around and do nothing, but instead, move around, explore, do things, touch things. A sick tourist is the best way of spreading a virus.
What’s the deal with Iran?
The outbreak in Iran started in the city of Qom where 700 Chinese students study at the University of Qom.
Qom is also a massive tourist attraction for the Chinese with its gorgeous shrines, mosques and incredible museums and architecture. In fact, Chinese tourism in Qom rose by 130,000 in December 2019, right when the outbreak started in China.
It really was a recipe for disaster for Italy and Iran - the stars aligned for the worst. We’ll get over it though - it’s not the deadliest virus, it’s just so much more contagious than anything we’ve seen in recent memory.
Just like the other coronaviruses (as well as the flu and common cold), COVID-19 transmission occurs mainly via respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes. The cough/sneeze contagion radius is 6 feet so make sure you go get yourself one of those personal space contraptions to wear until this outbreak passes.
The second most common transmission method is direct contact with contaminated surfaces. So forget shaking hands, hugs, opening doors and if you take the bus, work on your balance because grabbing onto holding poles is a horrible idea at the moment. In fact, you’re better off just staying at home because there’s nowhere to go anyways. As I write this in Canada, gyms have closed down, classes and university courses are all online, restaurants are closing. It’s bad news bears all around.
Uniquely, COVID-19 has also been found in infected patients’ stool. That’s super uncommon for a coronavirus and explains the high level of contagion because that adds a third route of transmission for the virus. Stay at home. Stay safe.
My best advice: Temporarily avoid meeting new people (you don’t know where they’ve been), forget dating for a little while because as much as we’d love for you to use Wandure so you can meet someone awesome and invite us to your wedding, it’s just not worth it. ‘Cause getting sick sucks.
COVID-19’s level of contagion is unmatched but it isn’t as deadly as its MERS and SARS coronavirus cousins.
I’m a numbers guy, so I’ll prove my point with numbers:
Confirmed cases: 8000
Mortality rate: 10%
Confirmed cases: 2500
Mortality rate: 32%
Confirmed cases: 170,000
Mortality rate: 4% (so far) - which puts the global recovery rate at 96%.
That’s a pretty high recovery rate (as it stands).
That’s because most COVID-19 infections lead to symptoms very similar to a cold or flu. Fever, cough, slight shortness of breath. Nothing too crazy. That’s 81% of cases.
While 14% of confirmed cases have experienced severe symptoms - we’re talking severe shortness of breath and sky-high fever. 5% of confirmed cases have suffered critical symptoms - scary stuff like respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or organ failure.
In a nutshell, if you don’t have any pre-existing conditions, your chances of recovery are quite high and experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms, rather low.
If you’re not headed to a rave in Wuhan with severe asthma or doing a 50-person tour of Rome’s Coliseum with newly diagnosed heart disease, then you should be fine. If you can’t stay home then make sure to keep your immune system rock solid by consuming a ton of leafy green veggies, and Vitamin C-dense fruit like kiwi.