Covid-19 or coronavirus is a branch of a large and diverse family of viruses including the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
How does this coronavirus cause infection
Viruses work by getting into the cells of your body and hijacking them. Coronavirus is spread by droplets from infected people through coughing, sneezing or breathing. It can also be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your face, eyes or mouth.
As copies of the virus multiply, they burst out and infect neighboring cells. The virus will then progress into the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat and continue throughout your upper respiratory tract and into your lungs.
How does that process cause respiratory problems?
About 80% of people will develop mild symptoms, some being asymptomatic, for others the symptoms will become more serious. For most patients, COVID-19 begins and ends in their lungs, because like the flu, coronaviruses is a respiratory disease. Within 14 days your immune system may respond with early symptoms like a sore throat, fever or dry cough.
That’s when phase two and the immune system kicks in. Aroused by the presence of a viral invader, our bodies step up to fight the disease by flooding the lungs with immune cells to clear away the damage and repair the lung tissue. When working properly, this inflammatory process is tightly regulated and confined only to infected areas. But sometimes your immune system goes haywire and those cells kill anything in their way, including your healthy tissue.
That can damage the alveoli or lung sacs and they have to work harder to carry out their function of supplying oxygen to the blood that circulates throughout our body and removing carbon dioxide from the blood so that it can be exhaled. This is when people can experience respiratory distress and more severe symptomatology.
What can you do?
The Ministry of health advise the following:
You should always practice good hygiene by:
- covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues
- washing hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and drying them thoroughly:
- before eating or handling food
- after using the toilet
- after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
- after caring for sick people.
People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice good cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues, and wash hands). If you have concerns, you can contact the dedicated COVID-19 Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453.
We also suggest boosting your immune system to give your body the best chance to fight the virus is something everyone should be focusing on. Check out our article on the “do’s and don’ts” for more information about this.