The novel coronavirus set in motion a global pandemic that the world is still attempting to understand, treat, and grapple with.
The virus is a novel member of the coronavirus family of viruses, long associated with the common cold, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). The virus is believed to have existed in animals before recently mutating and undergoing transmission to humans.
Because it’s a new virus, its behavior, its virulence, its means of spread, and other important features are only now under study. Infectious disease experts around the world are providing important information about the virus almost daily that can help curb its spread.
The virus leads to an illness called Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19. People with the disease typically have a fever, cough, trouble breathing, and exhaustion.
Most people who get the disease recover on their own with no lasting consequences, according to the World Health Organization. But up to 20 percent of cases may need urgent medical attention. Those most at risk include elderly adults and people with underlying health conditions.
Men appear to experience at least twice the risk of complications and death as women, and obesity as well as diabetes, heart disease, and immunologic conditions are reported risk factors for serious illness. Because the virus has a particular affinity for lung tissue, breathing can become compromised, and patients requiring hospital care often need the assistance of a mechanical ventilator, or respirator.
Simple actions like washing your hands, not touching your face, and staying home when sick can help keep everyone safe. Social distancing and avoiding large gatherings are also key to curbing transmission.
The novelty of the coronavirus threat, the uncertainty about its behavior, and the necessary adoption of restrictive measures to contain its spread, such as social isolation, have created unusual conditions giving rise to unprecedented levels of anxiety. Anxiety is an unpleasant sensation that normally serves as a stimulus to take appropriate action, but the very measures taken to curb the coronavirus require that people refrain from most forms of activity. As a result, the impact of anxiety is magnified and many people feel helpless.
Social isolation is a severe psychological and physiological stressor, and the stress of isolation is likely to hit hardest those people who, for one reason or another, are already devoting significant energy and resources to adapt to everyday life. These include, but are not limited to, the socially anxious, the unemployed, those with pre-existing mental health problems, those at risk for domestic violence and child abuse, elderly people coping with hearing or eyesight problems, and those experiencing cognitive decline.