COVID-19

 

COVID-19 is a new disease in humans that is caused by a coronavirus and was identified by the Chinese authorities on 7 January 2020.  However, on 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of unexplained cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, China.  This novel coronavirus was provisionally named 2019-nCoV and is part of a large family of viruses.  These virus types can cause the common cold to more serious diseases.  This novel coronavirus (nCoV) was identified as a new strain and not previously found in humans.  It was officially announced by WHO as a pandemic on 12 March 2020 with more than 20,000 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths in Europe. This announcement implemented guidelines from WHO regarding how to monitor sick people, treat patients, obtain and test samples, set up control infection in health centres, sourcing the correct personal protective equipment and information to the public regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.  This current outbreak of COVID-19 is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).  As of 6 May 2020, the UK has the highest recorded death toll from COVID-19 in Europe and the second highest in the world.  Total deaths in the UK have reached 30,076, compared to 29,684 in Italy, previously the highest in Europe. COVID-19 is primarily related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which spread across the world from 2002 to 2003. The SARS virus infected around 8000 people, which resulted in 800 deaths. However, this virus burnt itself out, mainly because most of those infected were seriously ill and this resulted in easier control measures.  Another coronavirus emerged in 2012 called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and this resulted in around 2500 cases and nearly 900 deaths.  COVID-19 is different from SARS and MERS in that the spectrum of disease is broad, resulting in 80% of cases obtaining mild infections.  In addition, many people carrying COVID-19 disease will show no symptoms, and therefore this makes it harder to control.  Currently, about 20% of COVID-19 cases have been severe and the associated death rate ranges from 0.7% to 3.4%.  This death rate depends on the location and the ability to access healthcare.  Research in China has eluded the fact that COVID-19 has mutated, which could make developing a vaccine much more complicated.