You might be feeling a little upset, scared or worried about the COVID-19 virus that’s made the world go into lockdown. We’re all going through a strange time, but there’s no need to panic. You can control how you protect yourself, your family and community by following a few simple guidelines. Let’s learn more about this virus, its effects and what we can do to cope at this time.
What is a virus?
A virus is an extremely tiny particle. It’s much smaller than the bacteria that you can only see under a microscope. A virus lives and reproduces by attaching itself to cells in a host’s body, like an animal or human body.
Viruses have been around for many years in different forms. Not all viruses are bad or serious. In winter, many of us get ill with the flu. That’s a virus too – and did you know it’s also a type of coronavirus?
What is the corona virus/COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory (nose, throat and lung) infections. Like the flu, the symptoms of COVID-19 include a sore throat, cough, fever, runny or stuffy nose and feeling very tired. But everyone with COVID-19 will not have the same. Some people may not have any symptoms and some may have all the symptoms. Everyone’s body is different and will behave differently.
Pandemics in history
The WHO defines a pandemic as ‘the worldwide spread of a new disease’. There have been a number of pandemics throughout history. As people travel more, diseases are able to spread faster – especially when they are new and not much is known about them.
Pandemics generally last for one to two years. This does not mean that COVID-19 will last for two years – there has been much advancement in science and technology through the years.
The pandemic that caused the most deaths is the Bubonic Plague, which killed about 200 million people. The next deadliest pandemic was Smallpox which killed about 56 million people. Other pandemics include the Spanish Flu, Swine Flu and Ebola.
COVID-19 does not have a very large death toll (currently over 600 000) compared to other pandemics, but it is still new and still spreading.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 became a global pandemic because of how easily it spread to so many countries. Tiny droplets emerge when a person coughs, sneezes or exhales. When infected people are close to others, these droplets carrying the virus can get into other people’s bodies. The virus is also spread through surfaces where these droplets land. When someone touches surfaces with these droplets and then touches their face, they can get infected.
Remember that a person who does not have any symptoms may still have the virus and can pass it on to others.
COVID-19 around the world and in SA
The first cases of COVID-19 were recorded in China in December 2019. It’s suspected that the virus originated in bats and was passed on to pangolins and then humans, but there is no evidence to tell us exactly if and how this happened.
The virus spread through Asia and Europe before it reached Africa. The first cases came to South Africa from Italy in March 2020. Soon after, a nationwide lockdown was put in place to stop the virus from spreading too quickly.
To date, there have been 16,819,944 cases globally. South Africa has recorded 459,761 cases, 7,257 deaths and 287,313 recoveries. Only 1.6% of cases led to death. The percentage of people who are recovering has increased to 62.5%.