Coronavirus COVID-19 Information
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The coronavirus has officially been declared a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization (WHO). What that means is that it is spreading widely in the world, and countries should increase their efforts to address the situation.
When talking about a disease, these terms can be confusing.
The last time the WHO declared a pandemic was in 2009 for the H1N1 outbreak. H1N1 was a novel flu that quickly spread. When a strain is new, that often means individuals have little or no immunity to that particular strain. For new viruses, a vaccine must be developed, and typically that takes many months. With that particular outbreak of H1N1, the incidence was reduced in some individuals because they had some protection from previous infection with a similar strain of influenza.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with the novel coronavirus now known as SARS CoV-2 causing the disease called COVID-19. As a result, it is estimated that up to 60% of the population may contract the disease. However, approximately 80% will have no symptoms or mild symptoms.
When facing a pandemic like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to do what you can to contain the spread of the virus, thereby “mitigating” or lessening its impact.
To do so, there are things we can do from a public health standpoint. Social distancing, such as preventing social gatherings in bars, night clubs, sports events, etc., is one way. Likewise, restricting visitors in hospitals and preventing or otherwise severely constraining visitation to our most vulnerable, namely those in nursing homes, while a difficult decision, is also an important step.
Taking steps like these to mitigate the pandemic will also help with what is known as “flattening the curve.” That means we are trying to reduce a major surge of disease that would overwhelm our healthcare system. By reducing how quickly a disease is spread, it becomes more manageable. If everyone gets sick all at once, it creates a surge of patients that can overwhelm hospitals and doctors’ offices. While the same number of people may be affected by a disease, if that is spread over a longer period of time, it is more manageable for the healthcare community.
The current outbreak of coronavirus will end with a vaccine or something known as "herd immunity." Herd immunity, or community immunity, is when a high percentage of the community becomes immune to the disease, either through vaccination or prior illness. At that point, it is less likely to spread from person to person.