We heard about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus for the first time in December 2020. Media reports talked about an atypical form of pneumonia that appeared in the inhabitants of the Chinese city of Wuhan. The speed of the infection spread and the death toll it was taking surprised scientists. This infection was different than the known ones so far – so it got its name COVID-19. The pathogen causing it was the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. It soon turned out that the virus crossed the border of China and reached most countries in the world. The first case of COVID-19 in Poland was recorded on March 4, 2020, and the first death as a result of this disease was registered on March 12, 2020. A day earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that we are dealing with a pandemic, an epidemic with a global dimension.
The number of sick people grew, and so did the death toll. There was no cure for COVID-19, and there was no vaccine protection against the coronavirus. At that time, only the short-term measures of disease prevention were effective: masks, social distancing, hand washing and disinfection, as well as isolating the sick from the healthy. Over time, tests for the presence of coronavirus were introduced, which made it easier to control people who are sick, and at the end of 2020 it was announced that the first effective vaccines against COVID-19 had been found. The situation is much worse with the treatment of infections – there is still no effective cure for this disease. Doctors use different “cocktails” of antiviral drugs. However, their effectiveness depends on many factors, including age, sex, condition of the patient (whether he suffers from other chronic diseases or obesity), race (there are studies that have proven that this disease is more severe in dark-skinned people), and the stage of the disease to the doctor. What do we know about this disease now and what is the situation around the world? We explain.
SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 coronavirus – what do we know about them?
SARS-CoV-2 is a typical virus of animal origin and is transmitted mainly by droplets or by contact with the secretion of an infected person. The infection that this virus causes is called COVID-19. The course of this disease may be asymptomatic or symptomatic.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus penetrates inside the cells through the interaction of the S protein (spike, spike) and the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Infection of the cells of the lower respiratory tract (mainly type II pneumocytes) causes severe damage to the alveoli in some patients. The patient’s immune system is involved in this process – complement components and released pro-inflammatory cytokines (in the most severe forms of the disease, with multi-organ failure, uncontrolled release of cytokines, the so-called cytokine storm). The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus damages not only the lungs (some changes are irreversible), but also other organs. It is due to the fact that the ACE2 enzyme is also found in other tissues. This pathogen can therefore attack blood vessels, heart, brain, central nervous system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. As a result, it leads to many complications after the disease. Some ailments appear immediately after the illness, some a few weeks after. This phenomenon also has its name, the so-called long-COVID or post-COVID. Importantly, the long-COVID phenomenon may also appear in people who have had a mild infection.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19
The most common symptoms associated with COVID-19 are:
Less frequent symptoms such as headaches, diarrhea, rash.
What to do if you suspect you have coronavirus infection?
If you are experiencing shortness of breath or trouble breathing, call 112 or 999 immediately for medical help and advise you if you have or may have coronavirus.
If your health condition does not require urgent medical intervention, contact your GP who will issue you a referral for a coronavirus test.
You can also make a self-referral online by completing a simple qualification form. If the system qualifies you for the test, you have two options: via the online form or during a conversation with a consultant.
Information about the test result can be found on the Patient Online Account. If the test is positive, your GP will let you know. You will also receive information about further treatment. It could be:
- referral to the hospital,
- commencement of isolation in an isolation room (isolators are to be accommodated, for example, by people who cannot be quarantined at home, as this would expose their loved ones to the risk of coronavirus infection),
starting home insulation.
How to prepare for the coronavirus test?
There are two types of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus tests in Poland: an antigen test and a PCR test. Prepare yourself for both. At least 3 hours before the test:
- do not eat meals,
- do not drink,
- do not chew gum,
- do not rinse your mouth and nose,
- don’t brush your teeth,
- do not take medication,
- do not smoke.
If you do not follow these rules, your test result may be inconclusive.
What does the coronavirus test result mean?
If the result of your SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus test is available, you will see one of four messages after logging in to the Patient Online Account:
- negative – negative test result (no SARS-CoV-2 detected),
positive – positive test result (SARS-CoV-2 detected),
- undiagnostic – means that the sample is unfit for testing and must be repeated,
- inconclusive – the result is at the limit of the analytical sensitivity of the test. It requires testing another sample taken after 24–48 hours.
If the test is positive you should undergo home isolation, unless your doctor will refer you to an isolation or hospital (list of infectious hospitals).
When does domestic insulation start?
Home isolation begins on the day the patient receives a positive diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2. Its duration depends on the patient’s health condition (clinical symptoms of COVID-19 disease) and the decision of the primary health care physician or the physician caring for the patient in a hospital or isolation room.
In the case of a symptomatic patient, after 7 days of home isolation, the primary care physician calls the patient to conduct an interview. It determines when the symptoms occurred (they could have occurred before the test result was obtained) and when they ceased (when the last time the patient had fever, cough, shortness of breath). Based on this, it will determine how long the isolation will last. Isolation is usually completed after 3 days without symptoms, but not earlier than 13 days after the first symptoms appear.
In the case of an asymptomatic patient, after 7 days of home isolation, the primary care physician calls the patient to determine his or her health condition. If there are no symptoms of the disease, isolation ends 10 days from the date of the first positive SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic test.
Important! If, on the basis of the interview, the doctor finds disturbing symptoms, he may extend the isolation. He will pass this information on to the patient, it will also be in his IKP.
Who can get vaccinated against COVID-19?
In Poland, all people over 12 years of age can sign up for the COVID-19 vaccination. Of course, minors must have parental consent. To sign up for a vaccination, all you need to do is enter the Patient Online Account. There should be an e-referral that allows you to sign up for vaccination (either via the Internet or during a conversation with a consultant).
It is known that the amount of antibodies in the body decreases over time, so from September onwards, people over 60 and immunocompromised people can take an additional booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, provided they have completed the primary immunization schedule and the last dose has been given. 6 months after the last dose. However, the final decision is made by the attending physician.
In Poland, you can vaccinate yourself with vaccines that have received a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA):
- Corminates by Pfizer / BioNTech (two-dose, mRNA type)
- COVID-19 Vaccine by Moderna (two-dose, mRNA type)
- Vaxzevria by AstraZeneca (2-dose, vector)
- COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen by Johnson & Johnson (single dose, vector)
Coronavirus – how to avoid SARS-CoV-2 infection?
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is transmitted by airborne droplets, e.g. when coughing or exhaling. The droplets with the virus leave the host’s body and land on objects or surfaces around the patient. To avoid contracting the coronavirus, keep the following recommendations in mind.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based disinfectant.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your bent arm or a disposable handkerchief when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the handkerchief into the trash and wash and disinfect your hands.
- Avoid contact with sick people – keep a distance of at least one meter.
How to wash your hands properly?
- Wet your hands with warm water. Apply the liquid soap to the fold of your hand.
- Soap both inner surfaces of your hands.
- Intertwine your fingers and soap them.
- Soap the thumb of one hand with the other hand, then switch hands.
- Soap the back of one hand with the palm of the other hand, then switch hands.
- Lather both wrists.
- Rinse your hands thoroughly to remove the soap. Dry them carefully.
You can get all the necessary information on the coronavirus by calling 800 190 590 (National Health Fund hotline).
Source: GIS / PAP / Ministry of Health