Knowledge is power: facts check Covid-19 and plan with knowledge

Multiple parts of the world is experiencing outbreaks of coronavirus infection, a new virus now everyone knows it as COVID-19.  COVID-19 stands for the Corona Virus Disease 2019. The virus is in the genus Betacoronavirus with zoonotic origin (meaning, it originated from animal).  Why 2019?  Because the virus was initially identified at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, China. 

The typical symptom of COVID-19 infection is flu-like including cough and fever, which, in some cases, progress to pneumonia.   COVID-19 could be transmitted from human-to-human, via respiratory droplets or close contact.  The fatality rate averages about 3.4%, far lower than that of SARS (9.14%) and MERS (34.4%), but a lot higher than flu, which has an average fatality rate of 0.13%.  Below table shows the fatality rate of COVID-19 by age groups reported by WHO.  

(confirmed cases)
(all cases)
80+ years old 21.9%14.8%
70-79 years old  8.0%
60-69 years old  3.6%
50-59 years old  1.3%
40-49 years old  0.4%
30-39 years old  0.2%
20-29 years old  0.2%
10-19 years old  0.2%
0-9 years old  no fatalities

COVID-19 is highly contagious due to the virus spreading via asymptomatic-infected individual, meaning people who carry virus but do not show the symptom.  The mean incubation period for COVID-19 ranged from 2.1 to 11.1 days (mean = 6.4 days).  This means that mostly people will show symptoms between 2 to 11 days after the infection.  This is the reason that the standard quarantine time is 14 days.  

Now, you have the basic knowledge about COVID-19, feeling stressed? Don’t panic.  Scientists have quickly sequence the full genome of this virus, which shows 80% of the similarity to the corona viruses that caused SARS pandemic in 2002-2003 and MERS pandemic in 2011. The novel part of the COVID-19 seems to be on the virus packing mechanism, which is more similar to those of Ebola virus and some avian influenza viruses (remember H1N1?).  In a nutshell, this new virus seems to be a smash-up of a bunch of other known viruses.

This is the good news.  With its genome so closely related to other viruses, the accumulated clinical and experimental data on these previous viruses allow doctors to predict how the human immune system may deal with this new virus and quickly come up with effective treatment options.

In addition, scientists have been working on the treatments for SARS, MERS and Ebola for many years now.  The large percentage of similarity between COVID-19 and previous viruses also mean that those treatments may be adapted for treating COVID-19 relatively quickly.  For example, Remdesivir is an anti-viral agent that Gilead Sciences has developed for treating Ebola.  Now both laboratory as well as clinical trial data strongly suggests that remdesivir may be an effective treatment for COVID-19.  The company is running multiple Phase 3 trials all over the world including in Washington State.   Another example is Regeneron, which has developed a collection of antibodies for treating MERS and Ebola.  Now, US government is partnering with Regeneron to adapt these antibodies for treating COVID-19.  

Before treatments come along, here is what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Here is what you should do if you are sick:

  • Stay home, and
  • Use facemask to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Until treatment comes along, your immune system is your primary defense against COVID-19.  In the next issue of “Knowledge is power,” we will share immune boosting formulations and treatment from Chinese Traditional Medicine.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference: E. Prompetchara et al. Immune responses in COVID-19 and potential vaccines: Lessons learned from SARS and MERS epidemic, Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol DOI 10.12932/AP-200220-0772