OVER the last month, the Guyanese population had been distracted by election politics and had not been able to turn their attention to two issues of immense national importance. The first is the Guyana-Venezuela controversy which will be coming before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 23 March, and the other is the Coronavirus pandemic which had reached Guyana and has already caused several deaths.
The coronavirus pandemic, now known as COVID-19 is one of the most fearsome diseases which has afflicted the world for a century. The last time there was a pandemic was after World War II when the influenza pandemic killed off millions of people all over the world. A pandemic should not be confused with an epidemic: an epidemic is when a disease affects one country or a limited area; a pandemic is when a disease affects the whole world.
There is pervasive fear of the disease all over the world because an infected person could die within days of contracting it and at the moment, no effective treatment or medication has so far been developed to deal with it. The disease first originated with human beings consuming the meat of wild animals which contains viruses which the human body had never encountered and as such, had never developed the capability of defending itself against them or developing any kind of immunity.
The beginning of the coronavirus disease is traced to a wet-meat market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the meat of all kinds of wild animals is sold. The first deaths from the disease occurred in the district around the market and soon Wuhan became the epicentre of the disease. .
Coronavirus is a large family of viruses which includes from the common cold to more serious respiratory diseases such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) originating from camel meat and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) originating from the civet cat. The animal from which COVID19 has originated has not been conclusively identified, but bats have been suggested. Eating the meat of wild animals is unsafe for wild animals are far more diseased than farm animals.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and dry cough. Some patients also have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny noses, sore throats and diarrhoea. These symptoms usually begin very mildly but if one has fever, cough and difficulty in breathing one should seek expert medical help.
COVID-19 is very easily spread: If a patient coughs or exhales, minute droplets are emitted and when these fall on surfaces which others may touch, they would have had the virus on their bodies and if they touch their eyes, nose or mouth they would be infected. Also, if one stands less than three feet away from an infected person, one could be infected when that person coughs and exhales.
Several measures could be taken to protect one’s self against the disease:
One should keep abreast with the statements and advisories made by the various health authorities. Such statements may give the most recent developments about the disease, developments in treatment, areas where the disease is prevalent and protective measures.
Hands should be washed regularly with soap or rubbed with alcohol to kill the virus.
Shaking of hands should be avoided and could be replaced by a bow or by placing palms together as is the usual greeting in South and South-east Asia. Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth since one’s hands may have touched an infected surface.
Avoid crowds or gatherings of people and avoid unnecessary travel since the disease could easily be transmitted on buses, at airports and on aeroplanes. Standing about three feet away from infected persons could avoid inhaling infected droplets from their exhalations or having droplets on one’s person if they cough.
COVID-19 outbreaks could be contained but it is the efforts of governments which have achieved such relief. China is the main example of such recent containment. Though the disease could be contained, it could quickly resurge. There are various reports that scientists in various countries hope to produce a vaccine in a month or two. Citizens should therefore be aware of the pronouncements of the health authorities and cooperate with disease-control efforts since these will then reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the disease.
It is estimated that 20 percent of those infected would be in a serious enough condition to require hospitalisation. Older persons, and especially those suffering from pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and lung diseases, are more liable to contracting the disease than children and younger persons.
The incubation period of the disease, that is, from the time the virus infects the body to the time when the symptoms begin to appear, takes from one to 14 days. Accordingly, one should be in a position to very roughly evaluate whether one is infected or not. The virus survives from one to several days, depending on the surface and in the conditions it is in.
Before we end this offering, we would reiterate protective measures: pay attention to the advisories from various health authorities; keep away from crowds or gathering of persons; stand or sit at least three feet away from infected persons; do not shake hands, but bow or put palms together in Asian style; do not touch eyes, mouth or nose, since by so doing one may be placing the virus in the body; wash hands regularly with soap or rub down with alcohol; do not travel unnecessarily; and lastly, if one is afflicted with body pains, nasal congestion or runny nose, fever and headaches, seek medical help