What You Need to Know About Coronavirus Disease a.k.a. COVID-19
Many microorganisms can make anyone sick, but the rapidly spreading COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) pandemic is making everyone not just sick but in constant panic. By now, you probably have heard people of all age groups panic buying food to keep in storage and hoarding cleaning supplies or disinfectants. But, there’s a lot more to know about this pandemic we are currently experiencing than just stocking supplies in the storage. Here, we will discuss what you need to know about COVID-19 to remain disease-free and healthy.
What is COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on their online factsheet, the COVID-19, short for Coronavirus Disease 2019 is an illness affecting the respiratory system. It was first identified in Wuhan, China, while health authorities were doing an investigation into an outbreak. To get more information on this disease, you can watch the animated video below:
Who is at a higher risk of developing serious illness from Coronavirus?
The Public Health Agency of Canada has posted an online guide that includes details on COVID-19, including a list of vulnerable populations. It says that a person may be more susceptible if:
Why are older adults at more risk from COVID-19?
One of the questions that many people ask regarding COVID-19 is the reason why older individuals are at increased risk of getting the disease. Even statistics all around the world shows that as the patients get older, they tend to be more ill. So let us talk about what is it that when you are at an advancing age, you get more prone to the disease.
1. The immune system gradually deteriorates as we age, making it harder for the body to ward off diseases and fight infection
As we age, many changes happen to our immune system. One of these changes includes the monocytes (a type of white blood cell) having a harder time destroying the cells that were infected by pathogens. Pathogens are bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other microorganisms that may cause disease. Also, these monocytes become less effective in sending a signal to initiate the immune response and keep it going.
2. Older adults are more likely to have underlying medical conditions that may affect the body’s ability to recover from the disease
Conditions such as diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory disorder, heart problems, hypertension, and other medical issues can work against the immune system and lessen the ability of the immune response to react.
What should you do to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak?
There are many preventive strategies to avoid getting infected with COVID-19. But by knowing that the greatest risk in contracting the disease is by being in close contact with people who have the virus, we can easily find ways to try to remain infection-free.
Here are some of the important things that you SHOULD do to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak:
1. Know what’s going on
This step is important. Be sure to know the most up-to-date info on Coronavirus disease. Knowing the facts about COVID-19 will help you plan and decide on what are the actions that you should take to avoid getting infected. For instance, if an area in your community experiences an increasing number of cases, then you’ll know that you should avoid going to that area.
2. Follow recommendations and rules set by your public health department
Every public health agency is to make any health and safety announcement related to prevention and control of the infection from spreading, including the provision of relevant information on practices that can prevent or reduce the risk of contracting the disease. It is crucial to follow their recommendations because careful planning and management strategies are necessary to win the fight against the disease.
3. Make sure you have enough (not too much) food in your storage
If you are staying at home for weeks to months, start filling up your cupboards with food. But, stocking food supplies do not mean you have to hoard all the available supplies in the store. Also, know that you can order food online or buy supplies without venturing out.
4. Get some household supplies and cleaning materials
Besides food, do not forget to store adequate cleaning materials and household supplies so you can keep your house clean. Regularly cleaning your home will also help in preventing the spread of microorganisms, which will increase your chances of not getting infected.
5. Take action to minimize exposure
You can also do certain steps to minimize your exposure to COVID-19. This includes avoiding areas such as health centers, hospitals, and other places with a large crowd.
6. Wash your hands. Yes, wash your hands!
You probably heard it on the news, seen posts, or listened to your neighbor say wash your hands a couple of times. But here is a piece of information that you should not miss: Handwashing with soap and water kills bacteria and viruses, BUT only if washing your hands is done thoroughly and often.
Here is an excellent video from John Hopkins Medicine that explains how you should wash hands properly:
To properly do handwashing, scrub all areas of your hands for at least 20 seconds, the length of time it takes to sing the alphabet, or a “Happy Birthday” song twice. Scrubbing all areas of your hands this long will ensure that germs or any microorganism won’t be transferred to anything you touch or spread from person to person.
And if you are wondering why it is vital to wash hands this way, take a look at the video on how the virus quickly spreads below:
7. Consume more foods that can strengthen your immune system
Feeding your body with nutrient-rich foods is always going to be at any list involving health promotion and illness prevention. And while there are many foods that contain nutrients or vitamins that serve as a natural immune booster, there is only a limited amount of food that you can eat in a day. To get as many nutrients as you need, you have to consume foods that have the highest amount and variety of nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Essentially, you may want to eat foods with vitamins, minerals, protein, small amounts of fats, carbohydrates, and fiber in your diet. If you want to know more about healthy dieting for Canadians, you can explore Canada’s food guide and plan your next meals in consideration of their recommendations.
8. Avoid foods and drinks that may weaken your immune system
If there are foods that aid in boosting your immunity, then it means that there could be foods that hurt your immune system. And as much as we don’t like it, there are indeed foods that can slow down your immune response. In fact, studies say that foods high in sugar are one of these foods that can hurt the immune system.
Besides sugar, you should also avoid consuming:
- processed foods
- alcoholic beverages
- refined carbohydrates
Studies say that they may have ingredients that could not only weaken but compromise the immune response.
9. Consider taking vitamins, minerals, or dietary supplements such as immune booster pills
As we go about the daily demands of living, our bodies get constantly bombarded by microorganisms that can make us ill. Yes, our immune system can fight infection, but there’s only as much as fighting they can do. And that’s where immune boosters come in. Supplements such as immune boosters are one of the most practical ways to strengthen the immune system naturally and keep yourself safe this pandemic season.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, several nutrients are under-consumed. And it is also true for a lot of people around the world because people usually don’t eat foods that have all the nutrients needed by the body. These include vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as calcium, choline, magnesium, and potassium.
And while it is always better to get vitamins and minerals directly from the foods that you eat, supplements are a better option in situations where we are in a lockdown. Why? It’s because fruits and vegetables have a shorter shelf-life. So, if social distancing and lockdowns last for months, it would be unwise to store dozens and dozens of fruit and vegetables that may rot after a long time.
Supplements cannot replace food, but having supplements is better than having no vitamins or minerals at all.
And talking about dietary supplements here is an excellent immune booster supplement that can help you get essential nutrients that your body needs.
10. Maintain a positive attitude
Be resilient. Think positive. And remember that resilience does not mean that you need to have a positive feeling about every negative experience or situation. Resiliency means that despite whatever bad happens or even if something wrong is going on, you still continue to have faith that you can and will do your best to handle any situation and move forward. The pandemic may bring us down, but we don’t need to go deeper.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The World Health Organization states the most common symptoms of COVID-19 in their promotional poster online (See the entire poster by clicking this link). From their list, the most common symptoms include:
- Breathing problems such as shortness of breath
However, for a more severe case of coronavirus disease, it can result in any of the following:
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Any of the symptoms may or may not appear within a period of 2 to 14 days.
How fatal is COVID-19?
As of writing, more than 4,600 cases have been reported in Canada, which is nine times more than the number of Canada's SARS cases in 2003. And, according to the statistics gathered by Our World in Data, the authorities confirmed 2,681 new COVID-19 fatalities globally. The death rate globally is currently 4.48 percent. While in Canada, the mortality rate is 0.97 percent, as of March 27, 2020.
How is COVID-19 Testing done?
(Updated April 17, 2020)
Testing for COVID-19 varies depending on your location. Health authorities use two different kinds of COVID-19 swabs. The first type of swab is the most common one, which is called the nasopharyngeal swab. This type of swab test uses a flexible swab that will be inserted deep through the nose up until the nasopharyngeal area, hence the term. The second swab testing utilizes a collection kit to get a specimen called viral throat swab. These swabs are then sent to the laboratory for testing.
On the other hand, some countries have already been using other forms of testing besides swab. Private companies have already manufactured rapid serological (blood tests), which can provide results in less than half an hour. They use these in Asia, Europe, and the United States. However, this test is still ‘under review’ here in Canada.
Is there a vaccine or cure for coronavirus disease?
As of today, there is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 or coronavirus 2019 disease. However, several individuals have recovered from the COVID-19 on their own.
Can pets at home cause or help the spread of coronavirus disease?
Currently, there needs to be further research and more evidence regarding the spread of COVID-19 through pets. Researchers and other health professionals are looking into links to whether domesticated animals or pets at home can be infected with the virus. However, authorities recommend observation of preventive measures such as frequent handwashing to avoid cross-contamination. We highly recommend washing hands with soap and water before and after contact with pets.
Is Canada Flattening the Curve?
(Updated April 17, 2020)
But first, what does it mean by the "curve"?
The "curve" researchers are talking about refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time. (To be clear, this is not a hard prediction of how many people will definitely be infected, but a theoretical number that's used to model the virus' spread.) Here is a graphic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing what it means to flatten the curve:
On the other hand, here are the daily confirmed Coronavirus disease -19 cases in Canada showing the rolling average of the confirmed cases. Please note, however, that these are not the actual total existing cases because not everyone who has the disease is tested.
What does the curve imply then?
The website livescience.com puts it this way, the curve can take on different shapes and trends, depending on the Coronavirus's infection and spread rate.
If it is a steep curve, it means that the virus spreads fast or exponentially (that is, the number of cases keeps increasing at a consistent rate), skyrocketing and forming a ‘tall mountain’. Furthermore, the infection curves (mountains) with a steep rise also means that it can have a steep fall (after the virus spreads to anyone who can get the infection, the case numbers can begin to decrease exponentially, too).
The problem, however, is that the faster this infection curve skyrockets, the quicker our testing centers, hospitals, treatment centers, and other health care facilities get overloaded beyond its capacity to check, assess, treat, and monitor people. As we are seeing around the globe, more and more cases add to the list, forcing people to get assessed or treated in health camps such as those in gymnasiums, and pitched tents without ICU beds. Besides treatment facilities, more and more health care providers run out of the supplies, both for the staff and patients, to respond to the outbreak.
A flat curve, on the other hand, means that the same number of people got infected with the coronavirus, but over a longer period of time. In short, it means a slower infection rate. And if we do not have a skyrocketing number of cases, it means less stress to the health care system or fewer people that need assessment, fewer hospital visits, and less demand for basic supplies on any given day. This also means that there will be fewer sick people being turned away due to overcrowding or lack of resources.
If you want to compare Canada’s curve with other countries’ disease trends or growth rate in the same period, interact with the chart by selecting any grayed-out lines. The steepness of the line per country corresponds to the confirmed growth rate for that country.
of the line per country corresponds to the confirmed growth rate for that country.
How do we flatten the curve?
As there is currently no specific medication or medical procedure to kill Coronavirus in the human body, and no vaccine has been tested in humans, the only way to flatten the curve is by prevention. Preventing its spread can be accomplished through collective action of all individuals, even those who do not have the infection. This is why government officials per each province are strictly advising compliance to preventive measures such as social distancing and personal hygiene.
Also, testing is limited to those who have symptoms and those who are at risk. So if you want to help flatten the curve, let us abide by the suggestions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our health officials including:
- washing hands frequently, with the use of soap and for at least 20 seconds
- self-isolating when you feel sick or suspect that you might be infected
- maintain ‘social distancing’ or avoiding contact to other people whenever possible (essentially keeping distance at few feet or 2 meters apart)
In fact, for this reason (flattening the curve), many provinces have temporarily closed public areas such as schools or shopping malls. Although grocery stores and some food establishments remained opened to provide basic needs like food deliveries. Furthermore, many businesses have transitioned and asked their employees to work from home as much as possible.
On the 15th of March, the CDC advised that all crowd gatherings or events with 50 people or more should be cancelled. After days passed, they even suggested postponing social meetings of 2 or more people. Until now, people were advised not to leave the house except to buy essentials such as food or medicine.
Watch the video below about the Paradox of Pandemics to learn more about flattening the curve:
You can also visit these sites and download any of the mobile applications listed below for you to stay updated about COVID-19 in Canada. Other apps also help determine what actions and next steps you should take for your specific needs.
- Health Canada COVID-19 App for Android devices - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?hl=en&id=ca.gc.hcsc.canada.covid19
- Health Canada COVID-19 App for iPhone, iPad - https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/canada-covid-19/id1505010304
- Online Canada Self-Assessment Tool and App made in collaboration with with Thrive Health, a Vancouver-based healthcare - https://ca.thrive.health/covid19app/home
- SafeContact (A mobile app to help track and trace Coronavirus outbreak) - https://www.safecontact.io/