COVA – what you should know

coronaThe information about the coronavirus cannot be summarized into one ‘quick read.’ However, this summary will help you to learn some fundamentals about it.

What is it?
COVID-19 belongs to a family of viruses that include the common cold, influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an outbreak of which in 2002/03 killed 774 people — including 44 in Toronto and 349 in China. This new virus is named for spikes on its surface that resemble a crown, allowing it to attach to cells in the lungs and duplicate. Cases began to appear in late December in the Yangtze River port city of Wuhan, China, centred around the Huanan Seafood Market, where wild animals were also sold.

Border closures
Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning via Canada-U.S. border crossings, including snowbirds who are coming home early, will be permitted entry.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is no longer saying that the risk in Canada associated with COVID-19 is low. Instead, PHAC’s website notes that Canadians at an increased risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19 are those:

  • aged 65 and over
  • with compromised immune systems
  • and with underlying medical conditions.

Grocery stores update
An email from Loblaw executive chair Galen Weston to PC Optimum loyalty program members stated that the grocer “is not running out of food or essentials supplies” and, with the exception of hand sanitizer, shelves will be full again once they catch up with “extreme buying.”

The email also noted that food and drug stores (the company owns Shoppers Drug Mart) are considered essential services by both federal and provincial governments and, as such, they will not be closed.

Preventative measures not enough
The World Health Organization has said that the precautionary measures being taken are not enough to “extinguish the epidemic,” which it declared a pandemic on Mar. 11.

Why the testing is crucial
Testing confirms those who are infected and in turn, they can be isolated thereby reducing the risk of others being infected. Therefore, it is important to test, test and test. In total 66,000 tests for COVID-19 have been done across the country as of mid-March.

What will signal the pandemic is over
When no new cases are reported globally for three weeks straight, the pandemic will be declared over.  

What is the incubation period?
Researchers race to pin down characteristics of novel coronavirus, including the incubation period. 0-14 days represents the current official estimated range with most people developing symptoms 5-6 days after infection. However, the exact figure may still be a moving target with reports of possible outliers where incubation may have taken up to 27 days.

What are the symptoms?
The WHO reports that signs of COVID-19 can range from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe pneumonia. The most common symptoms reported were fever, dry cough, fatigue, sputum, or phlegm production, shortness of breath and sore throat.

Nasal congestion, however, was rare and there were no reports of runny nose or sneezing.

If you have these symptoms, call your public health authority for what you should do.

How does it spread?
Coronaviruses can pass from animals to humans. Similar to SARS, the novel coronavirus can also pass from human to human, most often through respiratory droplets spread by sneezing and coughing, but also by touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Airborne spread has not been reported for COVID-19 and it is not believed to be a major driver of transmission.

What is the risk?
Most people, about 80 per cent, infected with COVID-19 have mild to moderate disease and recover on their own. So far more than 89,000 people have fully recovered.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that there is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:

  • aged 65 and over
  • with compromised immune systems
  • with underlying medical conditions

“Type 2 diabetes causes your white blood cells to function less effectively. We call it immunometabolism. So there’s a real link between the immune system and the metabolic system, and older adults are at increased risk for Type 2 diabetes or have pre-diabetes.”

Our immune system, which can wane with age
“Older adults tend to have higher amounts of the virus because they can’t get rid of it as much, and it tends to infiltrate deep into their lungs. Without a really robust immune system, it’s really challenging.”

Medical experts advise for those who have chronic health conditions like Type 2 diabetes is to keep their conditions managed.

“People who have Type 2 diabetes are more likely to be infected. But people who have well-managed disease — they keep their blood sugars stable — are always better off. Similarly, for people who have heart disease, keeping it well managed with exercise and healthy eating, that helps.

Travelling?
Global Affairs recommends that Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside the country until further notice.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is advising all travellers:

  • self-isolate for 14 days after your return from travel outside of Canada.
  • monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) for 14 days after returning to Canada
  • if you have even mild symptoms, stay home and call the public health authority in the province or territory you are in to inform them. They will provide advice on what you should do.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to return, those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will be prevented from boarding flights to Canada.

Although wearing a medical mask during flights may give you some protection, Loeb says the benefit can be negated as soon as you put your hands under the mask to scratch or eat.

Wash your hands. That’s the best advice.
These viruses are on things, people touch things and then they touch their mouth and noses and eyes. And carry an alcohol-based sanitizer for when you don’t have access to soap and water.”

Here are some credible sources for up-to-date information.

World Health Organization
Public Health Agency of Canada
Public Health Ontario
B.C. Centre for Disease Control
U.S. Centers for Disease Control 

Sources:
            Zoomer magazine
            McMaster Medical center
            World Health Organization website

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