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By Alexander Freund
At first glance, the symptoms caused by SARS CoV-2 resemble those we know from a "normal flu."
Frequent Symptoms of COVID-19
- Dry cough
- Loss of smell and taste
Other Symptoms That Sometimes Occur
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
Rare Symptoms of COVID-19
- Diarrhea (more likely in children)
- a rash on skin, or discoloration of fingers or toes
Sneezing is not a symptom caused by the novel coronavirus. So if you have to sneeze all the time and have a runny nose, you probably have a cold or a normal flu.
The sudden loss of smell and taste, on the other hand, is a very common symptom of COVID-19 and does not occur with flu or colds, even though they can sometimes also temporarily cause you not to smell or taste as well as usual because of a stuffy nose and inflamed throat.
These typical symptoms can occur, but do not have to: In very many cases, the COVID-19 infection proceeds with no symptoms or with only mild ones.
According to Germany's public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute, the average incubation period for COVID-19 is 5-6 days, but it can be up to 14 days.
Those who feel unwell or simply below par should not go to work, school, etc. and should reduce their social contacts.
A self-diagnosis is not always useful. If you are not sure or are worried, you should call a doctor or a COVID-19 hotline. Please do not go to the hospital or doctor's office on your own initiative, as COVID-19 is highly infectious. If there is doubt, the doctor or a test center will carry out a coronavirus test so you know whether you have been infected or not.
Most Frequent Transmission Paths
The main transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 is the inhalation of virus-laden droplets or aerosols that are released when infected people breathe, cough, speak, sing or yell. For this reason, a minimum distance of 5 feet should be maintained to other people.
If you stay for extended periods of time in small, poorly ventilated or unventilated rooms in which an infected person is present, the risk of infection increases. That is why regular and effective airing is so important.
Provided the minimum distancing is maintained, transmissions occur less frequently outdoors because the air is generally in motion.
Contact transmission through contaminated surfaces cannot be ruled out, especially in the immediate vicinity of an infectious person.
Effective Measures for Risk Minimization
- Keeping a distance to other people
- Compliance with hygiene rules
- Wearing protective face masks
- Frequent airing
- Rapid isolation of people who have tested positive
- Identification and early quarantine of close contacts
Keeping a distance, washing hands, wearing masks and regular airing prevent the spread not only of the new coronavirus, but also help against the flu and other infectious diseases.
Flu or Cold? Here Are the Little Differences
On average, adults catch a cold two to three times a year, and children up to as many as 10 times a year. But how do you tell if it is a normal cold or the flu?
Even doctors can have difficulty telling the difference between a case of influenza infection and a common cold when confronted with a patient's symptoms.
With a cold, most people get a scratchy throat, then a runny nose and eventually develop a cough. Those symptoms, as well as fever and headache, can plague a person for days, making them feel listless.
By comparison, the flu hits you all at once: A flu patient's head and limbs ache, a dry cough begins, one's voice becomes hoarse, painful throat aches occur and a high fever (up to 105°F), often accompanied by chills, can knock you out in short order. One just wants to stay in bed, feels exhausted, has no appetite and can sleep for hours on end.
A common cold typically passes within a few days and most symptoms go away after about a week. The flu is more tedious, keeping a person bedridden for at least a week, in some cases requiring several weeks before a person truly feels healthy again.
The RKI's Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO), recommends that all German residents at high risk of serious illness get an annual flu vaccination. That group includes people 60 and over, people who are chronically ill, pregnant women, and residents at senior and nursing homes. Beyond that, STIKO urges those who have a lot of contact with others (i.e., medical workers or those in public businesses or institutions) to protect themselves through vaccination as well.
When Should Antibiotics Be Used?
Most colds and flu cases are caused by viruses, against which antibiotics are useless.
Antibiotics strengthen the body's defenses by killing or hindering the growth of bacteria, but they also attack the cell walls or metabolic processes of micro-organisms. Penicillin, for instance, destroys the cell wall synthesis of bacteria. Porous cell walls make it impossible for pathogens to survive, literally causing them to burst. But this only works on bacteria, not viruses.
Antibiotics do, however, make sense in instances in which bacteria enter the body via a weakened immune system and begin to multiply. That process can lead to infection, sometimes permanently damaging the body's organs. Pneumonia, tonsillitis, cystitis or meningitis are most often caused by bacteria — thus, it makes sense to fight them with antibiotics.
Editorial note: This article from early February 2020 has been updated in line with the current data situation.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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