On the 30th January 2020, the WHO Director-General declared the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.
Since this, according to what was reported to WHO, over 1.3 million people have been infected and almost 80,000 have lost their lives. To alleviate suffering and save lives, severe isolation precautions were decided. These precautions may be considered by many as extreme measures, but the situation demands it.
Quarantine is an effort to limit further spread of COVID-19 and “does not have to be a scary thing,” explains an infectious disease specialist “And it is an effective way to protect the public.”
Quarantines are for people or groups who do not have symptoms but, without knowing it, were exposed to the infection and could have the virus without feeling symptoms. A quarantine keeps them away from others so they do not unknowingly infect anyone.
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms.
Isolation is another public health practice used to protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have, or may have, a contagious disease. It separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
Isolation and quarantine are public health practices that have the same purpose but are different things.
The new coronavirus outbreak, known as COVID-19, is a nonplanned stress test for the global population health and healthcare systems.
The new coronavirus is not the most deadly or transmissible of viruses, but it is high in both categories.
It has a relatively high mortality rate, but it is less lethal compared to SARS and MERS. However, it seems to have a much higher incubation time and to be more transmittable during the incubation period.
Thus, people can be infected by individuals who have no symptoms making it very difficult to deal with.
Consequently, young carriers with no or mild symptoms can bring the virus home to grandmas, grandpas, or their friends who have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, asthma, COPD, kidney disease. These are the ones at the highest risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
Slowing it down
Although some epidemiologists estimate that eventually around 60% of us will contract COVID-19, it is absolutely essential that we do not get it all at once. Slowing it down can make a big difference, especially on the number of people who get the disease at the same time.
A high number of simultaneously infected people will overwhelm hospitals’ capacity to treat them all.
By reducing the simultaneous infections as much as possible, the healthcare system will be able to handle the cases much better, leading to a lower fatality rate. Besides, by spreading the cases over time, may be it will be possible to reach a point when vaccination will be available.
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This virus may cost millions of lives, but there are other very relevant global risks for the World as the economic and financial reality of the world’s population will destabilise by halting trade, closing borders and increasing distrust between countries and people.
The new coronavirus outbreak, known as COVID-19 is undoubtedly going to change the world.
What people used to know as “normal” will never be the same again.
Best healthy wishes,
Dr. Maria Alice
Consultant in General and Family Medicine
Medical Director –Hospital S. Gonçalo de Lagos
Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve