Although most European countries believe to be past the peak of the infection, the coronavirus has by no means been eliminated. After weeks of lockdown, some countries have begun to loosen virus-control measures. However, fears of a second wave of infection is keeping authorities on their toes. Where are we exactly in the fight against coronavirus? To answer this question, let us take a look at the latest coronavirus developments.
Is there already a cure for coronavirus?
No, regrettably not. Scientists have not yet been able to find or develop a medicine or vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. However, some existing medicines have shown promise in treating COVID-19 patients who are critically ill. The antimalarial medicine plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) and chloroquine, an antimalarial that is also used to treat autoimmune diseases, seem to be most promising.
But despite their potential, these medicines are not being used on a wide scale to treat coronavirus. This is because medicines such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can cause serious side effects in patients, such as heart arrhythmia.
Doctors and scientists are working hard to find a safe treatment for COVID-19. Currently, the blood plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19 is being studied. Ex-COVID-19 patients have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus, and this could help cure other coronavirus patients.
When will a coronavirus vaccine be available?
Around the world, around 70 companies are working on a potential vaccine. Developing a vaccine takes time, because researchers need to be certain that it is safe for people to use. Therefore, it has to be tested on humans in trials. A coronavirus vaccine will probably not be ready for use before the beginning of 2021 at the earliest.
Researchers believe a vaccine will offer long-lasting immunity. This is because the coronavirus is not mutating significantly and appears to be relatively stable.
For whom is coronavirus most dangerous?
The novel coronavirus has claimed more than 200,000 lives between December 2019 and April 2020. Most victims were elderly people or adults with underlying health problems. Some groups have a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. High-risk groups include people who:
- Are 70 years or older.
- Receive treatment to control their immune systems (e.g. people who have received an organ transplant or with certain types of cancer).
- Have a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV.
- Have a heart and vascular disease.
- Have high blood pressure.
- Have diabetes.
- Have a kidney or liver condition.
- Have a long condition such as COPD, asthma, bronchitis or emphysema.
- Have a disorder affecting the brain or central nervous system, such as MS or Parkinson’s disease.
We now also know that people who are overweight have a higher chance of getting serious complications from COVID-19. The majority of coronavirus patients admitted to intensive care units have a high BMI.
Are there tests available to determine whether I have (or have had) coronavirus?
There are various tests available to determine coronavirus infection. The test based on a smear taken from the nose and throat detects whether the genetic material of the virus is present in the nasal or oral cavity. The test result takes a few days to come back. This test is currently available to healthcare workers.
There are also tests that can be used at home that detect the presence of coronavirus antibodies in the blood. These tests are conducted in the same way as a blood glucose test, by adding a drop of blood and some test fluid to the sample well of a test cassette. This test gives results within only a few minutes.
The coronavirus home tests are not available in every country. This is because some governments have not yet approved these tests. However, research is being carried out in these countries in order to authorise the use of test kits for home use.
Do we still need to stay at home and wash our hands?
In Europe, infection and death rates are finally decreasing. But although the measures to curb the spread of the virus appear to be effective, we must continue to abide by social distancing guidelines and other precautions until a medicine or vaccine is developed or discovered. Therefore, you are still advised to stay at home as much as possible. Staying home is by no means easy or fun, but it is necessary to prevent a second wave from occurring.
Proper handwashing is also still important in the fight against coronavirus. Some people are afraid that dry skin due to frequent handwashing could put them at risk of catching coronavirus. This is not true. The virus cannot penetrate the skin, even if it is dry or irritated.
Can face masks protect you from catching the virus?
In an attempt to slow down the spread of coronavirus, some countries have made wearing face masks mandatory. There are many misconceptions regarding the use of face masks. According to WHO officials, only people infected with COVID-19, people with symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, or those caring for the sick should wear masks to protect themselves and to prevent further transmission.
Face masks are only effective when worn properly. It is therefore important that you follow WHO guidelines:
- Before putting on a mask, wash hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Cover mouth and nose with the mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask while using it. If you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp.
- Remove the mask from behind by holding strings with clean hands. Do not touch the front of the mask.
- Discard immediately in a closed bin. Never reuse face masks.
- After disposal, wash hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Wearing a face mask can help prevent the spread of coronavirus. But they are only effective if other precautionary measures are followed, too. So, continue to wash your hands regularly, practise social distancing and follow all other guidelines your local government recommends.
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