So first to start, I wanted to discuss what is Covid-19. What is this all about? You may have heard about it in the news, and that’s probably a very good source of information. There’s a lot of nice resources from the CDC and from your local health department, and you should follow those recommendations on a daily basis, because they’re pretty up to date. The idea from my end is just to provide you an overview from a medical oncologist perspective and to explain to patients what this is all about.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are viruses that we all have known for many years. This type of virus coronavirus, is just the name of the type of virus that is currently affecting patients. But what we’ve known is that coronaviruses are present in the environment. They are also a source of upper respiratory infections like the common cold. In other cases, there’s a difference in strengths. As you may assume, different strains of a virus can give you different responses, and different outcomes in terms of severity of the disease, and how your body reacts against that virus when it’s infected.
Typically, these coronaviruses cause respiratory illnesses in humans. And it can go once again from common cold to severe symptoms. And you may have heard about coronaviruses before because these viruses were also part of this SARS, this Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that affected Asia for many Years. Also, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS, a virus which also caused significant morbidity and mortality when the epidemic happened. The difference here is that the SARS and MERS were not a pandemic.
Is The Coronavirus Disease a Pandemic?
A pandemic means that a virus has gone from the local environment where it came from in terms of infectiousness, and patients are being affected in a local region of the world. And the virus has already gone elsewhere. Think of it in cancer terms, when the cancer is tiny and you can remove it, that’s like an epidemic. When the cancer has gone elsewhere and has become metastatic, that is a pandemic.
So, the virus has already gone to different parts of the world. Meaning that you can rarely trace who gave you the infection because it could be already in the environment or carried by asymptomatic patients. So currently the World Health Organization called this virus Covid-19 or coronavirus, and that’s how we know it right now in the medical community.