With 152 confirmed cases with 5 deaths as 8:30 GMT March 30, 2020, Ghana is part of the over 177 nations and territories to have recorded cases of the dreaded COVID-19. On TV, radio and the internet, the spotlight on the virus has never dimmed upon the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring this respiratory disease as a global pandemic. You might have heard a couple of words been used since the virus emerged without knowing it’s meaning and appropriate use. Do not worry, KuulpeepsUHAS has you sorted out.
A virus is defined as an infective agent that usually consists of nucleic acid in a protein coat. Due to their tiny nature, viruses cannot be seen with the naked and requires the light microscope for viewing.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is defined as an illness caused by a novel coronavirus now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which was initially identified amid an outbreak of strange respiratory illness cases in Wuhan, China. Individuals at high risk include old people, individuals with lowered immunity, individuals with respiratory problems such as asthma and COPD, individuals with underlying conditions such as cancer and diabetes. Young and healthy people with no prior health conditions are still at risk of contracting the disease. COVID-19 is the third coronavirus related disease to have occurred, with SARS being the first in 2002 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012.
A disease is said to be endemic if the amount of a particular disease is usually present in a community. An endemic disease may also refer to the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area.
An epidemic is a rise in the number of cases of disease beyond what is normally expected in a geographical area. Example the Zika Virus outbreak in South America and the Ebola Virus outbreak in West Africa
A pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents usually affecting a large number of people. On March 11, 2020, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General formally declared COVID-19 as pandemic as the COVID-19 which began in Wuhan, China was observed to be present in every continent in the world. The 1918 Spanish Flu is another pandemic the world has encountered.
A disease is described as sporadic if it occurs infrequently
Zoonosis or a zoonotic disease is a disease caused by germs such as virus and bacteria that are spread between animals and people. These diseases are from animal origin and may be gotten through contact and using such infected animals as food. Scientists have theorized that the coronavirus disease may have been transmitted to humans by pangolins or bats.
Public Health Safety Precautions
Dr Lisa Maragakis of Johns Hopkins University defines social distancing as deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. With respect to COVID-19, it involves staying at least 6 feet away from others. According to Dr Deborah Birx, due to the current global health crisis, it is advisable to avoid groups of 10 or more to reduce the risk of infection.
Isolation and Quarantine.
As at now, these two words happen to be the most interchanged words and as such have been frequently misused by the press, general public and even some experts.
The US Health and Humans Services Department define isolation as separating sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick to prevent transmission whereas quarantine means separating and restricting the movement of people who have been exposed to the contagious disease to see if they become sick.
So the main difference between Isolation and Quarantine is that with Isolation, the people are already showing signs and symptoms whilst with Quarantine, these people may have been exposed to the disease and do not know it or they may have the disease but do not show the signs and symptoms.
Mode of transmission
COVID-19 is a new disease with many things to learn even including how it spreads. Scientists agree the spread is mainly from person to person; that is through close direct contact with another person or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person comes into contact.
The WHO has signalled that to an extent, the novel coronavirus can go airborne in certain circumstances, staying suspended in the air depending on factors such as heat and humidity. Scientists are also theorizing that in medical procedures that generate aerosols like manual ventilation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and nebulization, elements of the virus may remain in the air over long periods further increasing the risk of infection of healthcare workers.
According to scientists, it is also possible to get the disease by coming into contact with coronavirus contaminated surfaces and objects. Although found in the faeces of several victims, there has been no case of faecal-oral transmission.
Most Ghanaians who were around during the Revolution Days in the 1980s will be particularly familiar with this term. A curfew is a stringent emergency mandate which involves forcing residents to stay indoors on certain occasions and times for a particular number of hours. Noncompliance to curfews may lead to fines or in some cases arrest and imprisonment.
Lockdown is another word that has gained a lot of traction of late as countries around the globe look for a suitable way to halt the spread of the virus. Analysts define lockdown as an emergency protocol which is activated to contain or prevent residents from leaving their homes. Movements are allowed in lockdowns if and only if there are certified permits and documentation for essential things, unlike curfews, where the movement of any kind is prohibited.
With lockdowns, essential activities, services, companies and places such as hospitals, supermarkets, markets, banks and telecom companies are permitted to continue working as they provide vital services. Government officials, the security agencies, some transport services and most importantly health workers are also allowed to work. Non-essentials such as religious venues, schools, gyms and night clubs are forcibly closed.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Ghana’s Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ghana Health Service defines a PPE as an item used to prevent blood and other potentially infectious material from coming into direct with the clothing and the body of health and staff, patients and relatives. The PPE are for reducing the risk of infection and protecting the health worker from harm. As you read this, there is a global short supply of PPE making the work of health workers extremely difficult in this period. Personal Protective Equipment includes but is not limited to surgical masks, N95 respirators, gloves, gown and goggles. For face protection, the N95 respirator is the best for use.
The medical device which can be confidently described as a hot cake in the global supply chain due to its short supply is the ventilator. Then goes the question, what is a ventilator?
Simply put, a ventilator is a machine used to assist correct functioning of the lungs when there is a failure of the lungs. According to the WHO, one in six coronavirus patients become seriously ill and may develop breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the virus causes lung damage and further impairing the ability to breathe. This situation has made a ventilator more important than ever. Currently, Ghana has only 100 ventilators serving a population of almost thirty million people. Due to the global shortage, vacuum cleaner producing company, Dyson Ltd and car company Tesla Inc have taken up the task of manufacturing more ventilators to suit the current global demand.
There is no cure for COVID-19 as at today. Due to the novelty of the disease, there is no single accepted protocol for treating the disease too. Guidelines for treatment are done based on the discretion of the ministries and departments of health worldwide and on a case by case approach. Per Dr Anthony Fauci of the US NIH, there is no effective vaccine for the disease as well but candidate vaccines are currently undergoing extensive clinical trials for approvals for human use.
- Centres of Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Ministry of Health, Ghana
- Ghana Health Service
- British Broadcasting Corporation
- Aljazeera News
- Vox News