Keyword Coronavirus

The new coronavirus and its effects in Latin America

The novel strain of coronavirus emerged in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China, on December 19th, and spread like wildfire. On 31st December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology detected in Wuhan. A novel coronavirus was then identified as the causative virus by Chinese authorities on 7th January.

Follow the main facts and stories about the virus in Latin America

coronavirus illustration
The novel coronavirus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. Illustration: CDC

The status of the coronavirus pandemic:

Updated on July 6th, 2020, according to WHO data

Globally: 11,327,790, 532,540 deaths
Regions of the Americas: 5,820,840 confirmed cases, 265,024 deaths

WHO risk assessment in Very High

The status of the coronavirus pandemic in Latin America, by country:

Updated on July 6th, 2020, according to the health authorities in each Latin American countries

Coronavirus in Brazil

Confirmed cases: 1,613,351
Deaths: 65,120

Coronavirus in Mexico

Confirmed cases: 256,848
Deaths: 30,639

Coronavirus in Argentina

Confirmed cases: 64,530
Deaths: 3,470

Coronavirus in Colombia

Confirmed cases: 117,110
Deaths: 4,064

Coronavirus in Chile

Confirmed cases: 298,557
Deaths: 6,308

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About the new coronavirus

By February 20th, a month after President Xi Jinping ordered “resolute efforts” to combat the outbreak, China had reported over 70,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,000 deaths.

On 11th March WHO has declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic–the first one caused by a coronavirus.

The virus the causes COVID-19 is now been named SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2).

In Latin America, coronavirus officially arrived on February 26th: a 61-year-old man who traveled to São Paulo from Italy.

Q&A on coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The disease caused by the new coronavirus was named COVID-19.

Which are the symptoms of the coronavirus?

On 9 January 2020, WHO published guidance for the detection of the novel coronavirus. This guidance is continually updated as more data becomes available.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing.

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About 2% of people with the disease have died. People with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How does COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

Can CoVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true in the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.

What are the chances of being infected by coronavirus?

According to WHO, if you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or if you have not traveled from one of those areas or have not been in close contact with someone who has and is feeling unwell, your chances of getting it are currently low.

But if you are in an area where there is an outbreak of COVID-19 you need to take the risk of infection seriously, and follow the advice issued by national and local health authorities.

How fatal is the new coronavirus?

Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones.

We can channel our concerns into actions to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. First and foremost among these actions is regular and thorough hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene. Secondly, keep informed and follow the advice of the local health authorities including any restrictions put in place on travel, movement, and gatherings.

What can I do to protect myself from coronavirus and prevent the spread of the disease?

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
  • Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain viruses. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
    Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose, or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
    Why? Droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu, and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
    Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
  • Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow the advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority, or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
    Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself from coronavirus?

Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. A disposable face mask can only be used once. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is ill then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so WHO urges people to use masks wisely.

How dangerous is coronavirus for animals?

Investigations are ongoing to evaluate the source of the outbreak, mode(s) of transmission, and the extent of infection. Available evidence on the 2019-nCoV virus and previous experience with other coronaviruses (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV) and other respiratory viruses (e.g., avian influenza) suggest that there may be zoonotic transmission associated with the 2019-nCoV.

To protect yourself, such as when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Ensure good food safety practices at all times. Handle raw meat, milk, or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.

On 28th February 2020, WHO confirmed that a dog in Hong Kong has tested “weakly positive” for COVID-19. But Hong Kong scientists aren’t sure if the dog is actually infected or if it picked up the virus from a contaminated surface.

For now, WHO says that there’s still no evident risk of coronavirus infection by domestic cats or dogs.

Are vaccines or even antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19?

Vaccine: Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019.

Antibiotics: No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.

Is it safe to shop and receive packages from China?

Yes, it is. People who receive packages from China are not at risk of contracting 2019-nCoV. Thanks to a previous analysis, WHO said that it was verified that the coronavirus does not survive much on objects, such as letters or packages.

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