Facts and figures about the coronavirus disease outbreak: COVID-19

What we know about this pandemic and how MSF teams are responding

MSF teams doing COVID-19 triage in Brussels.
Belgium 2020 © Kristof Vadino
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MSF helps respond to the needs of vulnerable communities in the US during COVID-19 pandemic

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A new coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019. This virus presents particular dangers as there is no known pre-immunity, no vaccine, and no specific treatment. The virus is contagious, and everyone is presumed to be susceptible. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are working in projects around the world to fight the spread of coronavirus买球电脑版, and to sustain other lifesaving medical aid for communities who are further threatened by this pandemic.  

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, most of which are harmless for humans. Four types are known to cause colds, and two other types can cause severe lung infections: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The novel coronavirus is now known as SARS-CoV-2, because of its similarities to the virus that causes SARS.

This new coronavirus seems to target cells in the lungs, and possibly other cells in the respiratory system too. Cells infected by the virus will produce more virus particles, which can then spread to other people, for instance by coughing.

What is COVID-19?

On February 11, the named the disease caused by the new coronavirus: COVID-19. On March 11, the declared that the global spread of this previously unknown disease is a pandemic. By September 28, . There were more than 33 million cases of the coronavirus around the world—with  (7 million) than in any other country. 

买球电脑版Our understanding of this new coronavirus and COVID-19 is still evolving. The virus can spread from person to person, including by people who appear to have no symptoms. This makes it much harder to get a good picture of the way it’s spreading.

买球电脑版The WHO notes that coronavirus can be transmitted through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when an infected person coughs or exhales. People can catch COVID-19 by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus, and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. People can also be infected if they breathe in droplets from a person with coronavirus who coughs out or exhales droplets. The WHO recommends staying more than three feet away from a person who is sick.

The latest estimates are that 80 percent of the people who get infected with the new coronavirus will experience a mild or moderate form of disease. Roughly 15 percent will develop a severe form of the disease requiring hospitalization. Some 5 percent will become critically ill. Sophisticated health care systems may be able to cure some critically ill patients, but the danger is that even the most advanced systems may be overwhelmed by the large numbers of people who will need to be hospitalized.

The high level of supportive and intensive care required to treat patients with COVID-19 places real challenges to even the most advanced health care systems. MSF is very concerned about the potential consequences in countries with weak or fragile health care systems.

买球电脑版COVID-19 is more dangerous for elderly people or people suffering from other infections or ailments. Children so far seem to be less affected by the disease. The mortality rates vary significantly from place to place.

Public health measures such as isolation, quarantine, and social distancing are generally put in place to limit community transmission, reduce the number of new cases and severely ill patients, protect the most vulnerable people, and manage health resources.

It’s important to protect yourself and protect others too. As with other coronaviruses, droplet infection seems to be the main mode of transmission. The virus enters the human body through the mouth or nose. This can happen by breathing in infected droplets, or by touching with your hands a surface on which droplets have landed, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth later.

Simple infection control measures such as good handwashing and proper cough and sneeze etiquette are effective and important for prevention.

买球电脑版Hand hygiene is paramount, so wash your hands often with soap and water. Use enough soap, and make sure all parts of both your hands are washed. Spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands. If there is no visible dirt on your hands, an alcohol-based gel is also a good option.

买球电脑版Stay home when you are sick, and avoid contact with other people. If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or with the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues into a wastebasket immediately and wash your hands.

买球电脑版Social distancing is advised in places with community transmission of the virus. Avoid crowded places and large gatherings, and generally keep some physical distance between you and other people.

买球电脑版Given the current problems with the supply of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment, the needs of health care staff should be prioritized.