Coronavirus has a global reach. It is in more than 200 countries and all 50 states, causing unprecedented havoc in every phase of our lives. Aggressive steps at containment changed to mitigation, but escalating deaths are grim recognition of the pandemic. Researchers and clinicians are racing to come up with a solution, with more than 50 drugs being investigated clinically.
COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, is highly contagious with a rapid velocity of transmission. The disease appears to have a fatality rate that is lower than its predecessors, SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV-2, and the majority of fatalities are in elderly patients and patients with pre-existing underlying chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, there are innumerable young and healthy patients succumbing to the disease, heightening fear.
In 80% of cases, COVID-19, particularly in young, healthy patients, is mild and those affected have symptoms similar to the cold or flu. In 15% of cases, development of progressive respiratory symptoms may necessitate hospitalization. In 5% of cases, patients become critically ill and require intensive care unit support. The overall fatality is estimated to be about 2%.
The modes of transmission include droplets, surface contact, fecal-oral route and aerosolization during procedures. Increasing prevalence of asymptomatic carriers and transmission by asymptomatic carriers have been reported.
Although vaccines have been developed at a warp-speed pace in the United States, Israel, Queensland and China, it is expected to take too long for the vaccines to be deployed during this epidemic because of the need for safety testing and clinical trials. Clinical trials with antiviral agents such as remdesivir, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, hyperimmune globulin, convalescent blood, stem cell therapy and others are in place and will hopefully help the development of effective therapeutic agents.