Covid-19: separating the facts from the fiction

Covid-19: separating the facts from the fiction

Or separating the facts from the myths of Covid-19, or also known as the coronavirus.

Please note that as this is written and published, there is constant new evidence and information being released about the virus, so please see this as informative at the time of publish but not exhaustive nor fully conclusive. .

As some of you may have already guessed, I am going to talk about Covid-19 in this blog. As many will know, this is a current global virus that is having a lot of people concerned.

There is a lot of information and a lot of misinformation going around, leading many people to panic buy and leading to raised levels of stress, uncertainty and anxiety. As it an illness that is currently at the top of many people’s health concerns, has a significant effect on not only our physical health but our mental health as well in terms of the anxiety that is producing in many people, it seems appropriate a topic which be discussed and explored within a health and wellness context.


Covid-19.

What is it all about?

Well I suppose for us to understand the virus we need to seek information and evidence from information and news sources which are credible and reliable. I say this because a lot of information going about has been word of mouth, speculation and media spun. And a lot of the information that has come from these sources have been misinformation. Now let me be clear. I’m not saying all of the information has been misinformation. I know that there are people who have passed on information who are informed, but I feel for the large part, owing largely due to mass panic, that there is a lot of misinformation passing around at the moment.

As Covid-19 is such a large topic and one could spend a long time discussing it, I think it would be a good idea to focus on a few key things in this blog:

  1. What it is?
  2. How is it transmitted?
  3. What are the symptoms?
  4. How is it treated?
  5. How you can keep yourself safe?

What is Covid-19?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2020):

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

WHO, 2020

The WHO (2020) describe coronavirus as:

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are 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). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

WHO, 2020

So where did it come from?

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECPC) (2020):

Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals with some of them also known to infect humans.

Bats are considered as natural hosts of these viruses yet several other species of animals are also known to be a source. For instance, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is transmitted to humans from camels, and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-1 (SARS-CoV-1) is transmitted to humans from civet cats.

ECPC, 2020

I think what is important is to try and address one of the first misconceptions of the illness: that the illness started with bat soup. When the illness was still in its infant stage, there was a news story which spread very quickly, that coronavirus was spread from people in China eating bat soup. Whilst it is true that bats are considered as natural hosts for the virus, other species of animal are also known to have been a source of the virus.

I think that it is also important to note that animals may also be at risk and that the route of infection is not primarily from animal to person (Live Science, 2020). There is evidence to suggest that a dog contracted the Covid-19 virus in China, although it has not fallen ill or shown symptoms of the disease, and there is little evidence to suggest that the animal may be able to infect humans.

Several dogs and cats tested positive for a similar virus, SARS-CoV, during an outbreak in 2003, animal health expert Vanessa Barrs of City University told the Post. “Previous experience with SARS suggests that cats and dogs will not become sick or transmit the virus to humans,” she said. “Importantly, there was no evidence of viral transmission from pet dogs or cats to humans.”  

Live Science, 2020

So how is it transmitted?

According to NHS (2020), coronavirus is spread through the air and on surfaces, for example, if you sneeze, or where you have the virus and touch a surface and another person touches the surface after you.

It is recommended that you DO:

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

Similarly, it is recommended that you DON’T:

  • touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

So how will I know if I have it? What are the symptoms?

According to WHO (2020):

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. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) 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, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

WHO, 2020

As mentioned above, whilst some elderly people are known to develop serious illness after contracting the virus, it is not exclusively an elderly person disease. I think it is important to dispel this misunderstanding. Whilst it is true that some elderly people have become very ill form the virus, there are people from many ages who have become seriously ill, and factors such as lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking and diet also need to be taken into consideration, as well as already existing health conditions. It is important therefore that people of all ages be tested should they feel they may have symptoms of the virus.

How is it treated?

Currently there is no medication to treat it, however there is research being done into potential treatments (scroll down to find out more). Currently, the advice if you are ill, is to self-isolate, receive medical support, and allow the body to fight off the virus. Always though, follow the advice as given by your medical professional in terms of managing if you are effected by the virus.

So how do keep myself safe?

According to WHO (2020):

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. Many countries around the world have seen cases of COVID-19 and several have seen outbreaks. Authorities in China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing or stopping their outbreaks. However, the situation is unpredictable so check regularly for the latest news.

WHO, 2020

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions (WHO, 2020:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
    Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
    Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray 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.
    Why? 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, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
    Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
    Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
  • Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places  – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.
    Why? You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19 in one of these areas.

According to NHS (2020):

Stay at home for 7 days if you have either:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.

This is guidance from NHS, which is the National Health Service for England, UK, so for advice from your country, please seek advice from your local and or national health authority equivalent.

It may be easier said than done though, but try not to panic. I have seen a lot of news recently about people panic buying lots of toilet paper and hand sanitizer and getting into fights in shops in a desperate attempt to stock pile on toilet paper. Whilst I can understand the urge to stock pile, that a person may be forced to self-isolate for some time, and that they will want to have supplies to be able to last out the period of isolation, panic buying very large amounts of the product is selfish and dangerous, leaving less for others, and not helping the situation at all. Part of managing the illness is about practicing hand hygiene, so it makes sense to leave hand and body washing products for others. Bulk buying all the hand and body hygiene products leaves others vulnerable, and may actually allow the virus to further spread.

Be sensible. This is not the time buy and hoard all the toilet paper or hand cleaning products.

There is however some hope.

There are already big steps being taken into finding a medical treatment for the virus. Gilead Sciences, a US biotech firm, has ramped up production of an experimental drug that has become a focal point for hopes of an effective treatment for coronavirus (The Guardian, 2020).

The first clinical trial of the antiviral medicine remdesivir in Covid-19 patients is due to report its findings next month according to Gilead Sciences, which said it had accelerated manufacturing of the drug to increase its supplies “as rapidly as possible”.

The Guardian, 2020

Whilst there is still much that is to be known about and researched into the virus, we need to work together and not against one another. We need to try not to panic and we need to follow health guidelines of our local authorities and support those who may be seen as more vulnerable to the virus.

A short video which may help give some more information about the virus:

Content of YouTube (2020).

In summary, coronavirus has a lot of people worried, but it is important to try and support one another in this time of uncertainty. Practice effective hand hygiene and try to avoid touching your face after exposure to someone who you feel may have the virus. Lifestyle factors such as smoking and underlying health conditions need to be factored in, so try to look after yourself during this time and keep yourself healthy. If you suspect that you may have the virus, follow the guidelines of your local health authority, which may include self-isolation for a period of time until the virus has worked its way from the body. And don’t panic, if you can. Stockpiling and buying all the toilet paper and hand and body cleaning products is not only selfish, it is also dangerous, not allowing others to stop the spread of the virus, and in turn helping the virus to spread.

I hope you have found the blog of some help. Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely weekend wherever you are on the planet.

And remember especially at this time: look after yourself. And your neighbour.

References:

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (2020). Q & A on COVID-19. Available: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china/questions-answers. Last accessed 12th March 2020.

The Guardian. (2020). Hopes rise over experimental drug’s effectiveness against coronavirus. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/10/hopes-rise-over-experimental-drugs-effectiveness-against-coronavirus. Last accessed 12th March 2020.

Live Science. (2020). 13 Coronavirus myths busted by scienc. Available: https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-myths.html. Last accessed 12th March 2020.

NHS. (2020). Overview -Coronavirus (COVID-19). Available: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/. Last accessed 12th March 2020.

World Health Organization. (2020). Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19). Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses. Last accessed 12th March 2020.

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A bit about the author:

I am a guy who is (nearly) 40, who is sharing a journey of weight management and wellbeing.I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders. 

Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.

I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders. 

In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course with the view to start studying toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in late 2019.

In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.

In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. As part of my role within the health services in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, I am also currently looking to develop myself as a Wellness Coach, to support the individual with weekly wellness blogs, with the view to support individuals on a 1:1 basis as well as holding motivational lectures and seminars.

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