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What science confirms about the coronavirus one year after the pandemic

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After 12 months of studying the new coronavirus, never seen in humans, it is now known that the virus does not discriminate by age, health, nationalities or climate. We compiled 10 irrefutable facts we now know about COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 has presented a challenge to scientists because it is a new virus that had not been detected before in humans. It was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Although it belongs to the family of coronaviruses, which have been studied for years, virtually everything about it was unknown. Until today, many questions remain on the subject.

The virus causes a disease known as COVID-19, named on February 11, 2020, by the World Health Organization (WHO). The ‘CO’ is for corona, the shape of the virus when viewed through a microscope. ‘VI’ is for the word virus, and ‘D’ for the disease.

More than a year after it was first identified, and thanks to the efforts of thousands of scientists around the world, this is what is known about the virus.

It is highly contagious and is transmitted by droplets of saliva

The new coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets that people expel by coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, or even simply breathing. Contagion can occur when contact occurs within 6 feet of an infected person, or when a person touches an infected surface and then brings their hands to their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Particularly in unventilated spaces, droplets can linger in the air for hours and can cause illness in people who come in contact with it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Transmission of the virus can occur at high temperatures and hot environments, as shown by the increase in cases during the summer. There is also no reason to believe that winter weather can kill the coronavirus, warns the WHO.

No one is completely “safe” from COVID-19

The virus does not care about people’s age, physical condition, or health. Absolutely all those who do not have immunity against the virus are at risk of being infected.

However, the severity of the disease differs from person to person. Symptoms vary in each case and may take time to appear. The CDC has been expanding the list to now include the following symptoms: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle and body aches, headache, loss of smell or taste, sore throat, stuffy nose, nausea, or vomiting and diarrhea.

An individual may present with one or more symptoms from the list within 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

Studies show that one in five people who test positive on diagnostic tests are asymptomatic, according to the journal Nature. These people who do not have symptoms can transmit the virus without knowing it, so it is important that everyone respect the prevention measures at all times.

Age or optimal physical condition does not completely rule out the possibility of suffering from a severe illness. Although it has been observed that people over 65 years of age or with chronic conditions (such as lung diseases, obesity or diabetes) may be more vulnerable, there have been cases of young patients, including those under 14 years of age, who have had to be connected to respirators or have died.

The 19% of deaths related to COVID-19 have occurred under 65 years, according to CDC data on February 6, 2021.

Although they represent a smaller proportion of cases, children can become seriously ill from COVID-19

Children and adolescents are at the same risk as any adult of catching the virus, developing the disease, and infecting other people. However, according to the CDC, most have no or very mild symptoms.

Severe cases have been reported in children, most often in those under the age of one, warns the American Academy of Pediatrics. Some children and adolescents develop a Multisystemic Inflammatory Syndrome, weeks after a COVID-19 infection, which requires immediate medical attention. They are a minority, but it is important for parents to watch out for symptoms such as irritability, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, red eyes, swollen lymph node in the neck, red tongue, and swollen hands or feet.

A negative result in the detection test does not always rule out infection

Screening tests are used to find out if a person has an active coronavirus infection if they have the virus at that time. But it may happen that, at the moment of being tested, the person is in the initial stage of infection in which the levels of the virus are not yet detectable, which would lead to an unreliable negative result.

Some tests also give erroneous negative results (false negatives), due to their margin of error or problems in taking the sample. According to Harvard University, these false negatives can occur in 20% of cases.

Even if you test negative for COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you continue to follow preventive measures: wear a mask, keep 6 feet away from other people, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and get vaccinated if possible.

The positives in the detection test are reliable and must be quarantined (even if there are no symptoms)

Positive screening test results are virtually irrefutable.

If you test positive for COVID-19, the CDC indicates that you should isolate yourself at home (unless you require medical attention) until you are three days without fever, your respiratory symptoms are better, and ten days have elapsed from the onset of symptoms or until you receive two negative results in a row with a 24-hour period between each.

If you test positive for COVID-19, but have had no symptoms, to leave home you must wait until 10 days have passed since the screening test, or receive two negative results on a second test at least 24 hours apart.

If you’ve had close contact with a person with COVID-19, you should stay home for 14 days from the time of exposure, the CDC warns.

It is possible to get reinfected with the virus

Getting sick twice from coronavirus is rare, but possible. For this reason, it is important that all people, even those who have already fallen ill and recovered, always respect preventive measures.

Because the virus is so new, it is unknown how long immunity lasts after someone is infected. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 95% of people who had the disease developed immunity that lasted at least eight months. However, this can vary from person to person.

It is also not yet known how long the immunity achieved through vaccines against COVID-19 lasts.

It is important to remember that having a positive antibody test for SARS-CoV-2 does not necessarily imply that you have had COVID-19, as these tests have a high margin of error. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that one is immune against the virus.

The vaccine, masks, hand washing and social distancing are the best defense

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the virus by frequently washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol), keeping at least 6 feet away from others, and the permanent use of the mask when leaving home. Avoiding touching the face, limiting social contact by avoiding going to crowded places, and disinfecting frequently used surfaces are also necessary measures, health authorities emphasize.

Masks decrease the amount of saliva droplets that come out of the mouth and nose, which spread through the air and on surfaces. To be efficient, masks should cover from nose to chin, with no gaps on the sides of the face. The best are those with two or three layers, made of a material that does not allow light to pass through. The CDC recommends wearing two tight-fitting masks for maximum protection.

Masks protect others in case one is infected (even without symptoms). When used by everyone, they are proven to be a powerful weapon in stopping the spread of the virus, explains an editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). But its use does not replace social distancing measures, the CDC clarifies. You must continue to maintain a distance of approximately six feet from others.

Prolonged use of masks does not cause carbon dioxide poisoning or hypoxia, emphasizes the World Health Organization. Although they are a bit uncomfortable, it is proven that they do not affect oxygenation.

Vaccines are the best way to reduce the chance of developing a serious illness from the coronavirus, which could land you in the hospital or cause death. They will also help reduce pressure on the healthcare system and accelerate the return to normalcy.

That’s why experts recommend getting vaccinated as soon as possible, regardless of whether you get the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In the words of Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading epidemiologist: “Just take the vaccine that is most accessible to you.”

There is still no cure for COVID-19: don’t believe in “miracle” remedies

Neither garlic, lemon with bicarbonate, nor ginger nor any other natural remedy (nor that have antimicrobial properties or strengthen the immune system) “kill” the virus or prevent infection. Since the beginning of the pandemic, WhatsApp chains with alleged cures against COVID-19 have been circulating. There is no reputable study or scientific evidence to validate those claims.

The information has also circulated about some medications to treat or prevent COVID-19. Although there are several clinical trials underway, it has not yet been proven that compounds such as hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, or others are effective or safe, even if they are being promoted in some places in the world. Its use without medical indication can bring dangerous side effects.

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a section of its website dedicated to alerting the public about scams that claim to sell cures for the COVID-19 disease. “Miracle cures that rely on scientists or contain secret ingredients are probably scams,” the organization warns.

The only drug that has emergency FDA approval and is administered only in hospitals to critically ill patients who meet certain criteria is remdesivir, which has been shown to shorten recovery time in hospitalized people. Other drugs, such as olumiant, monoclonal antibodies, and convalescent plasma have received FDA clearance for emergency use in the treatment of hospitalized people.

Antibiotics are not effective in preventing or treating the disease, emphasizes the WHO, since COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not by bacteria. Some people who get COVID-19 can also develop a bacterial infection as a complication. In this case, a healthcare provider may recommend antibiotics, explains the WHO.

Swallowing or spraying yourself with a chlorine spray or other disinfectant will not protect you against the new coronavirus and can be extremely dangerous, warns the World Health Organization. These are toxic substances that should only be used to disinfect surfaces.

Vaccines are safe and effective

So far, three vaccines have been approved in the United States for use in the population. To be authorized, the results of the clinical trials of each vaccine were subjected to studies by the health authorities and independent committees of scientists.

Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, while Moderna’s is 94.1% effective.

In the United States, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was found to be 72% effective in preventing moderate to severe disease and prevented 100% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths. 

Serious side effects are very rare. About 5 out of every 1 million people in the United States have had a severe allergic reaction to vaccines, according to the CDC. The country has also registered 1,170 reports of deaths among people who have received the vaccine, but in no case has a link been discovered between death and vaccination.

COVID-19 is much more than a cold: do not underestimate it

There are those who compare COVID-19 to a common cold or the flu (influenza), but while the symptoms may be similar (fever, cough, chills, congestion, muscle pain), this virus has a much higher mortality rate and it has been associated with health problems that go beyond an attack on the respiratory tract.

Although most people recover satisfactorily, there are reports of patients who have developed an inflammatory response that compromises organ function, others who have blood clots, strokes, kidney failure, coronary inflammation and even psychosis. 

“They all focus on mortality and respiratory problems … but the virus certainly has effects on the brain,” Mark George, a psychiatrist, and neurologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, told Stat News.

So far in the pandemic, there have been more than 109 million cases and more than 2 million deaths in the world. In comparison, each year there are between 3 and 5 million confirmed cases of influenza, and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths in the world, based on data from the World Health Organization.

COVID-19 has generated more cases and deaths in a shorter time frame.

COVID-19 is a new and unknown disease for humanity. As you investigate, the information may change. For example, at first, it was believed that symptoms were limited to cough, fever, and shortness of breath were the only symptoms, and now the list has expanded. This is not to say that health authorities such as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lie: they are still the most reliable sources of information that you should consult and that they are constantly updating the information.

It is important to know how to interpret the results of scientific studies correctly. Therefore, we recommend that you do not believe anything you read on social networks and do not fall into conspiracy theories.

With information from NatureStat News.

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