The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, keeps the entire world on edge. Latin America became the main focus of the outbreak in May, which reached Europe in March and led the continent to close borders and confine millions of citizens. The pandemic originated in China at the end of 2019, but the American continent has been the next victim due to the rapid expansion of infections in the United States. So far more than 2.4 million people have died and more than 110.3 million cases have been confirmed worldwide. What is a million dead? Comparison with other catastrophes and pandemics.
China, with 4,636 deaths and more than 89,000 infected people, has managed to contain the virus nine months after the start of the crisis and is no longer the country with the highest number of infections, a position held by the United States, which exceeds 27.8 millions of positive cases. It is followed by India, with 10.9 million; Brazil, which exceeds 10 million; and the United Kingdom and Russia, with four million infections In terms of deaths, the United States also leads the statistics with more than 493,000 deaths, followed by Brazil, with more than 243,000. Mexico exceeds 178,000, replacing India in third place, which totals more than 156,000. For its part, the United Kingdom registers more than 119,000 deaths, followed by Italy with 94,000 and France with 83,000. Russia exceeds 80,000, Germany and Spain 66,000, and Iran 59,000.
The focus was thought to be on a seafood market in the city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, but researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science have ruled it out. They do conclude that the virus spread through this place and that it arose in some type of bat, but they are not clear if it later mutated into another animal before passing to humans.
The World Health Organization (WHO), a year later, has determined that its origin is animal, although the expedition sent to China still does not have conclusive evidence that the virus mutated from bats or pangolins, which are still potential candidates.
What degree of mortality does it have?
According to the latest data, the fatality rate of the new coronavirus among those infected stands at 4.5%. However, the researchers consider that it is still too early to accurately calculate its fatality, in part because mild cases are not diagnosed and are not recorded, in addition to the fact that the disease is sometimes asymptomatic. This would reduce the number significantly.
How does it spread?
The virus spreads mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can reach the mouths or noses of people nearby and possibly enter the lungs when breathing.
Drops with the virus can also be deposited on different surfaces and objects, which when touched can be incorporated into the hands, which is potentially infectious if the person then touches his mouth, nose, and possibly eyes with that same hand. The World Health Organization warns that “many people who contract the disease have only mild symptoms.” This, he says, “is particularly true in the early stages of the disease” and, “therefore, it is possible to catch it from someone who, for example, only has a mild cough and does not feel sick.” Likewise, once the disease is over, the virus excretion phase begins, the average duration of which is 20 days. Recently published work suggests that prolonged excretion indicates that patients may still be able to spread SARS-CoV2 at this stage. Besides, the coronavirus was detectable until the end in the deceased people.
Is it very contagious?
It seems that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted quite easily. At the moment, the WHO estimates that the contagion rate (R0) of the virus is from 1.4 to 2.5, although other estimates speak of a range between 2 and 3. This means that each infected person can in turn infect between 2 and 3 people. To control an epidemic, R0 needs to decrease below 1.
How to prevent it?
The advice given by the health authorities to avoid contagion is to wash your hands frequently and use tissues or the elbow to cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Regarding the use of masks, it is essential to use them if you are infected, suspect that you may be, or are in direct contact with patients who carry the virus.
In case of having symptoms, in Spain, the authorities recommend calling the health workers, so that in the case of being infected, the virus does not spread in hospitals or the health services collapse.
In China, the authorities have asked the population to take protective measures for contact with wild animals and to properly cook all food of animal origin. The symptoms described for Wuhan pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus are fever, headache, and fatigue, accompanied by a dry cough and dryness and, in many cases, dyspnea (shortness of breath). These symptoms are shared with many pathologies, so in order not to saturate health services and avoid new infections, the Ministry of Health recommends calling 112 in case of doubt.
Has it spread abroad?
Outside of China, more than 110 million cases have been registered, especially in the United States, which is a very short time has become the most affected country in the world, exceeding 27.8 million and has made America the continent with more infections. Without leaving the continent, Brazil is the second country in the world with the most deaths and the third with the most confirmed cases, with more than 10 million infected. They exceed one million infected: Colombia (2.2 million), Argentina (2) and Mexico (2), and Peru (1.2). After a harsh spring, the focus of the pandemic returns to Europe. The United Kingdom – the European country with the most infections – has more than four million cases, followed by Russia. Spain also exceeds three million confirmed infections and more than 66,000 deaths have been registered.
The situation in Italy is also serious, which has become the country on the old continent with the most deaths, more than 94,000, below the United Kingdom, where a new variant has appeared that spreads faster. Back on the Asian continent, India is the second country in the world with the most infections with more than 10.9 million and the fourth in deaths. The pandemic is also spreading through Iran, with more than a million infections and the virus has reached Antarctica, infecting a group from the Chilean exploration base.
In Africa, where the pandemic has also reached, the countries with the most confirmed cases and deaths are South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Ethiopia.
What is the position of the international health authorities?
The WHO declared on January 30 the international health emergency due to the rapid expansion of the coronavirus to increase coordination between all national health networks in the world to take greater prevention measures and standardize treatment, quarantine, and awareness programs. At the end of February, he raised the risk of expansion to a “very high” level worldwide and urged the country’s governments to take whatever measures were necessary to be prepared for the arrival of the virus. And, the most urgent, contain its spread. For its part, the Spanish Government decreed a state of alarm on March 14 and confined all of Spain until June.