At the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, very little was known about the virus. What was known, however, was that it was a form of coronavirus (the same virus that causes the common cold, for example), which is a respiratory pathogen – and that it was much more serious and also had the potential to be fatal. As it began to rapidly spread on a global scale, countries had to make quick decisions on how they were going to address it head on and what their response would be, with some even having to implement strict lockdown measures in areas where infection rates were at their highest. Things that were also unknown about the virus in its early stages included how its cause, transmission, who was most at-risk, in addition to the full list of possible symptoms that came along with it. Here’s what we’ve learned in the last 10 months.
CAUSE OF COVID-19
What we knew then: When COVID-19 first emerged, we knew that it had origins that were genetically similar to coronaviruses found in bats.
What we know now: In addition to the aforementioned information, we know that, as mentioned, COVID-19 is also a form or coronavirus. Coronaviruses are type of virus that cause things like the common cold, or other types of infections in the nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Typically, coronaviruses are not considered dangerous. However, COVID-19 can trigger a serious infection of the lower respiratory tract, such as a lung infection (i.e. pneumonia.)
TRANSMISSION OF COVID-19
What we knew then: Because COVID-19 was not a form of coronavirus that had ever been seen before, it quickly got the attention of scientists on a global scale. As a result of the way it was rapidly spreading, epidemiologists began to conduct field investigations in effort to determine not just how the virus started, but who was infected, when they first became ill with the virus, where they were and who they were around when they fell ill, and how it was spreading.
What we know now: Much like other forms of coronaviruses, COVID-19 is most easily spread by coming into contact with an infected individual’s respiratory droplets. This can occur as a result of having close or prolonged personal contact with someone who has the virus, as well as coming into contact with an high-touch areas where respiratory droplets have landed and then by touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unclean hands.
WHO’S MOST AT RISK
What we knew then: In its early stages, COVID-19 had a high infection rate in people over the age of 60.
What we know now: In addition to those over the age of 60 being considered high-risk for COVID-19, we know that individuals with underlying conditions are also at an increased risk of contracting the virus; including those with asthma or other respiratory conditions (such as COPD), those who have chronic kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, are overweight or obese, have cancer, or those who are immunocompromised. COVID-19 also does not discriminate when it comes to age. While older individuals are still considered higher risk, there has been an increase in reported cases – particularly those between the ages of 20 and 40, and we have also seen cases where children have developed COVID-19.
SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19
What we knew then: In its early stages, it was thought that the central symptoms associated with COVID-19 were fever and pneumonia.
What we know now: As time as gone on, we have learned that there are plenty of other symptoms associated with the virus – and that they are easily mistaken for other common illnesses, like the common cold, flu, or even allergies. For example, one might experience very mild symptoms such as nasal congestion or a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fatigue, and low-grade fever; while on a more severe scale, can develop a high fever and have difficulty breathing (which is considered a medical emergency, and may require hospitalization as well as for the patient to receive oxygen or be placed on a ventilator.)