This post is about the Pandemic Novel Coronavirus discovered in 2019, commonly known as COVID-19. Unless you’ve been vacationing on Mars, you’re almost certainly aware of this latest pathogen and heard enough frightening tales about it to keep make even Michael Crichton blush.
The trouble is, what are the facts and what is misinformation from all corners of everyday life. What I want to do is instead do some research, share my sources, and give my best interpretation on what best practices should be based on all the information that’s been made available to date.
First of all, we know the Coronavirus is related to SARS and the Common Cold. It is not a novel Flu bug. For one thing, it hits similar respiratory beats that those the Cold and SARS do. Indeed, the official name given to the Novel Coronavirus by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses is SARS-CoV-2. The virus is also rather spikey, just like the Cold and SARS—Corona comes from the Latin word Coronam, meaning crown. For another, it’s the first pathogen to, within months of its discovery, to be entirely, genetically sequenced.
The virus itself is driven by a Positive-sense, Single-Stranded RNA, +ssRNA. The one of the first to decode a complete RNA sequence were the Chinese on 11 February, 2020, from a December 2019 sample. In that sample, the proteins encoded in the RNA are listed, where each letter in the sequence corresponds to a different protein. Since the Chinese sample, as of this writing 146 sequences have been decoded, though not all of them have the Protein analysis.
The beauty though is that, as we build a digital model of how the virus works, we will be able to much better adapt and derive pathways to block its effects or transmission, maybe even helping to develop a vaccine. That said, a vaccine at least a Phase 1 Clinical Trial to prove that it’s safe and non-toxic and what the right dose is among healthy individuals. Because it’s a vaccine, it’s unlikely to require Phase 2 and later trials in individuals with the condition as the vaccine is meant to be prophylactic. However, if the Phase 1 trial is small, a second trial is likely with just a larger healthy cohort. This whole process, however, will take months. With the sequences, it will be faster, but it’s not instantaneous.
From what we know about SARS, we expect the virus to mainly be transmitted from sneezing and coughing. Thus, it’s good to try to maintain a physical distance from others of about 2 meters (around 6 feet). Normally, beyond that distance, the respiratory droplets will desiccate and render the virus inert. But, some surfaces provide platforms which allow it to survive for hours or even days. Thus, it’s necessary to make sure you keep surface clean and disinfected.
Try to wash for at least 20 seconds, get between your fingers and rub the soap into your palms. Then rinse thoroughly and turn off the tap with your towel. Also, please wash your hands frequently—and don’t forget to moisturize to prevent them from cracking from the increased cleanliness. If a sink and fresh water isn’t available, try a 60%-alcohol sanitizer.
Consider washing after you step away from your computer or video game. Generally, after you touch anything that may have been touched by others. Also, avoid using your hands when possible. For instance, use your hips and elbows to open doors without a handle. And be mindful of where your mobile phone has been been.