Corona is an umbrella term for viruses that have crown-like spikes on their surfaces, in which they get their name. In the family of Corona viruses there is the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
MERS is a viral respiratory illness. The symptoms of MERS are fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases there is diarrhea and vomiting. Complications that can arise are pneumonia and kidney failure. MERS had an outbreak in 2012 in countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula. In 2015 there was an outbreak in Korea. There have been more than 2,500 cases around the world and 35% of those infected die.
SARS is a contagious respiratory illness. People infected with SARS can have flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, dry cough, shortness of breath and occasionally diarrhea. SARS was transmitted from civets to bats to humans. It infected the human population primarily between the years of 2002 to 2004. There were a total of 8,422 cases worldwide with the vast majority occurring in China. There were 251 cases in Canada. The estimated case-fatality rate is estimated at 15%. Most of the deaths occurred in patients with an underlying illness, and nearly all were elderly patients with an average age of 71 years. There have been no new cases of SARS in Canada since June 12, 2003. Covid-19 is a type of SARS virus. SARS-Cov-2 is the virus that causes Covid-19. The virus gets its name because it is short for coronavirus disease and it was discovered in 2019.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person. They may also vary in different age groups. Some of the more commonly reported symptoms include: new or worsening cough, difficulty breathing, temperature equal to or over 38 degrees of Celsius, feeling feverish, chills, fatigue, weakness, muscle or body aches, sinus pain, runny nose, nasal congestion, loss of smell, loss of taste, headache, nausea, and gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting). Children tend to have abdominal symptoms and skin changes or rashes.
Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to Covid-19. You can infect others even if you aren’t showing symptoms.
How Covid-19 spreads
Covid-19 spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts or talks. Infectious droplets may come into direct contact with the mucous membranes of another person’s nose, mouth or eyes, or they may be inhaled into their nose, mouth, airways and lungs. The droplets vary in size from large droplets that fall to the ground rapidly within seconds or minutes, near the infected person, to smaller droplets, sometimes called aerosols, which can linger in the air. This kind of spread is known to happen among those who are in close contact, in a crowd or in an enclosed settings.
The virus can also spread when a person touches another person (i.e., a handshake). It can also be transmitted when a person touches a surface or an object that has the virus on it, and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
Actions taken to prevent spread of illness
The public is encouraged to practice social distancing which means staying at least 1 metre away from others. It is strongly recommended to reduce transmission by covering a cough or sneeze in your elbow and frequently washing hands. Entrance into business and facilities are on the condition that customers wear a mask and show evidence of vaccination. It is believed that reducing the likelihood of infection can be done by opening a window or avoiding poorly ventilated rooms. Canadians are encouraged to get the vaccine which is free and accessible. Canadians that have travelled outside of the country are required to quarantine for 14 days. An action implemented to reduce the spread of Covid-19 is investing in research to learn more about the virus. In learning more about the virus we can better understand how to control its movement. Scientists study genetic analyses of the virus by noting the changes in the spikes on the surfaces of the virus to see if it will affect how it spreads and what happens to people who are infected by it. Along with studying the virus, research is also conducted on the success of drugs used to prevent the spread of the virus such as vaccines, antiviral drugs, medical gases monoclonal antibodies and other drugs that address inflammation.
Further research is conducted on patients that have recovered from COVID-19 by taking their convalescent plasma and studying it. This research is conducted with the hope of preventing mutations that can make the current drug less effective.
During the height of the pandemic schools, businesses, museums and other places of meeting were closed to slow down the spread of the virus. Non-essential international travel was also restricted.
Number of Covid-19 cases
As of April 6, 2022 there were 494 million Covid-19 cases and 6.16 million deaths worldwide. Countries with the largest number of cases were USA, India and Brazil. Canada had 3.52 million cases and 37,782 deaths.
What is a Covid-19 variant?
When there have been several significant mutations to the virus then it’s called a variant. Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist to make the virus more infectious. They may also affect the severity of the disease. A variant is of concern when it is more difficult to be detected and there is less protection from the vaccine. Examples of variants of Covid-19 are Omicron and the Delta virus. It is believed that antibodies generated through vaccination recognize variants.
A Global timeline of the beginning of the pandemic.
December 31, 2019
China informs the WHO of a cluster of 41 patients with a mysterious pneumonia.
January 1, 2020
Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market closes after it’s determined that most cases are linked to it.
January 22, 2020
China had reported 2,744 cases of the novel coronavirus and 81 deaths.
January 23, 2020
The city of Wuhan is placed under quarantine and a few days later, so is the entire province of Hubei.
February 7, 2020
Whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist who first warned of the new virus and was reprimanded by Chinese authorities, dies from it.
February 19, 2020
Iran’s outbreak begins. Within six days, the country’s deputy health minister Dr. Iraj Haririchi will appear ill in a press conference and later test positive for the virus.
February 20, 2020
South Korea surpasses 100 confirmed cases.
March 4, 2020
After taking strict measures to contain the virus, South Korea’s daily new case count begins to decline after peaking at 851.
March 9, 2020
Italy locks down its entire population, restricting movement across the nation. Italy’s confirmed case count hits 9,000.
March 11, 2020
The WHO declares a pandemic; the global confirmed case count is 126,000.
March 26, 2020
The U.S. becomes the nation with the most infection globally; surpasses 100,000 cases within 24 hours
March 27, 2020
Italy reports more than 900 deaths in a single day, the most of any country since the virus emerged.
March 30, 2020
Spain reports more than 900 deaths in a single day; the U.S. reports the same following day.
The first case of Covid-19 in Canada
On January 25, 2020 the first Canadian case of Covid-19 is reported by Health Canada. A man from Toronto had travelled to Wuhan, China. On January 22, 2020 he took a flight from Beijing to Canada. That same day major Canadian airports in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver had introduced new screening measures for passengers returning from China with flu-like symptoms. The man didn’t have any symptoms when he arrived, but the next day, he became so sick that he required a trip to the hospital. Paramedics in protective gear brought him to Sunnybrook Hospital where he was isolated in a negative pressure room. Toronto public health announced that they were tracing contacts who were sitting near him on the flight. In the end the only person that this man passed the virus onto was his wife. She had milder symptoms and isolated at home. Both would go on to make full recoveries. By February 20, 2020, the Torontonian man who had Canada’s first case of Covid-19 tests negative twice for the virus in 24 hours.
The First Cases of Covid-19 in British Columbia
The first five cases of Covid-19 in B.C. had travelled from China. By February 19, 2020 it is announced that the person diagnosed with B.C.’s first case of the new coronavirus had recovered. The next day a woman who recently returned from Iran is diagnosed with British Columbia’s sixth case of COVID-19. She is the first person in Canada diagnosed with the illness who did not recently visit China.
Examples of Covid-19 cases in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows
There was a Covid-19 outbreak at Ridge Meadows hospital. It was first announced on March 10. The health authority sent a press release out on April 8, 2021 with the news that five patients at the Ridge-Meadows hospital tested positive for the virus. It was limited to one general rehab unit within the hospital, and the emergency department was able to remain open. Fraser Health notified all patients in the affected unit about the outbreak, and in addition informed the families of patients. The outbreak was declared as over by Fraser Health.
A staff member at the Jolly Coachman Pub in Pitt Meadows tested positive for the virus. The pub was closed on October 16. Management planned to re-open the pub on October 21, 2020, but Fraser Health and Worksafe BC advised the pub to stay closed for two weeks. It was closed for 14 days until October 30. Fraser Health advised customers to the pub to self-monitor for symptoms of the virus if they were at the pub on October 9 to 14th. The Jolly Coachman Pub posted on social media that they were closing and that it was due to the possible spread of the virus. Before opening again they installed protective barriers, sanitized surfaces, and staff were also tested for the virus.
Vaccines are used to teach the body’s immune system to recognize and block the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccines are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants and are effective at preventing serious illness and death. There are several different types of COVID-19 vaccines that are in development such as inactivated or weakened virus vaccines, protein-based vaccines, viral vector vaccines and RNA and DNA vaccines. Inactivated or weakened virus vaccines use a form of the virus that has been inactivated or weakened so it doesn’t cause disease, but still generates an immune response. Protein-based vaccines use harmless fragments of proteins or protein shells that mimic the COVID-19 virus to safely generate an immune response. Viral Vector Vaccines use a safe virus that cannot cause disease but serves as a platform to produce coronavirus proteins to generate an immune response. Pfizer and Moderna are RNA vaccines. Below is an image with an explanation regarding how an RNA vaccine is made and works.
If any of those vaccines become less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants.
There are several vaccines in use today. The first mass vaccination programme started in early December 2020. The WHO approved the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on December 31, 2020. On February 15, 2021 the WHO approved two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and SKBio. Later the Astra-Zeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine was abandoned and no longer administered because of reported cases of blood clots occurring shortly after receiving the vaccine. On March 12, 2021, WHO approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). On April 30, 2021 the WHO listed the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA 1273) for emergency use. The WHO continues to approve more vaccines for the future.
Vulnerable populations most affected
Individuals who are at more risk for severe disease or outcomes after getting Covid-19. For example, older adults are more at risk than younger adults. The risk increases with each decade especially over 60 years old. People of any age with chronic medical conditions are vulnerable in getting severe outcomes such as individuals with lung disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, stroke and dementia. People of any age who are immunocompromised such as cancer patients taking chemotherapy or individuals taking drugs that lower their immune system. People living with obesity (BMI of 40 or higher) are susceptible to becoming very sick for a longer period than those with a BMI below 40.
Depending on the workplace environment some individuals are likely to get Covid-19 while working. Some occupations require staff to be in contact with large numbers of people, which increases their chances of being exposed to someone who has Covid-19. Public service jobs such as Museums, Art Galleries, schools, the Library are potential places to get Covid-19.
Other jobs that require customer service such as retail, restaurants, transit etc. are possible places to get Covid-19. Factories, call-centres or places of work where there are many people in a confined space with little ventilation are hotspots for Covid-19. Hospital staff are also vulnerable because of frequent contact with infected patients and surfaces.
Covid-19 can also easily spread into a home where there are many people residing. For example, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, shelters, or group residences.
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As we are still learning how to live with Covid-19, this disease is still very close to all of us, and we encourage you if this distresses you to talk with someone you trust.