Curago Health Blog

COVID-19 Origin and Overview

Mar 21, 2020 8:30:00 AM / by Rajib Ghosh

A novel coronavirus causing respiratory illness that first showed up in Wuhan, China in December of 2019 has now spread in 114 countries worldwide affecting 198,000 people so far and causing 7,900 deaths. In US all 50 states have now reported affected cases with large cluster of cases reported in Washington, California and New York states. More than 6,000 cases have now been reported from different states and more than 100 people of have already died.

This link provides visualization of various COVID-19 data points for quick reference.

On March 11, World Health Organization (WHO) characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. On March 13, the President of the United States declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency.

According to the CDC, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.  All three of these viruses have their origins in bats. The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir.

Severity

Severity of this virus varies from person to person. It is also not fully known, and we have seen various degrees of impact on human health from the recent spread in Italy. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild symptoms (or no symptoms) to severe, including death. Older people and people of all ages with severe medical conditions like chronic heart disease, lung disease and diabetes seem to be a higher risk of developing serious illness when infected with COVID-19. Please read CDC website for more details.

COVID-19 response at the regional level

Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, San Francisco County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County and Marin County along with the City of Berkeley on Monday, March 16th announced a shelter-in-place for all residents to implement “social distancing” as response to flatten the disease spread curve. Verily, an Alphabet company, announced on Monday a new website called Project Baseline for Bay Area residents to pre-screen for COVID-19 testing. Currently they are offering testing to Santa Clara and San Mateo County residents only. This testing program is to help those with concerns about COVID-19 possibly to get tested free of cost as well as enable public health officials to target testing efforts. This response is changing by the day as the situation is changing rapidly. We will continue to post new guidelines on our blog to let our customers aware of the recent developments.

Telehealth as an alternative to in-person care

If the COVID-19 cases start going up it might get difficult to pre-screen every patient before scheduling an in-person visit over phone. Patients with other conditions may also feel uncomfortable or unwilling to visit clinic sites in-person. Telehealth could be an alternative to deliver care to patients under such circumstances. Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services recently announced relaxation of the HIPAA rules around Telehealth solutions for the clinics. According to this announcement clinics would be allowed to use telehealth solutions like Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts or other video communication apps and technologies that do not fully comply with the HIPAA regulations without any penalties.

Tags: Coronavirus, Telehealth, Telemedicine

Rajib Ghosh

Written by Rajib Ghosh