November 1, 2022
Dr. Tom Weida, chief medical officer for University Medical Center, provided information about COVID-19 during an October Mini Medical School presentation at The University of Alabama’s OLLI program. Mini Medical School is a series of lectures provided to OLLI by faculty of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences, which operates UMC.
Weida said COVID-19 comes from a large family of viruses, called coronavirus, that can cause illness in humans and animals. COVID-19 is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and early in the outbreak, many patients were reported to have a link to a large seafood and live animal market. Global travel caused the virus to spread to many countries.
There are five COVID-19 variants: alpha, beta, gamma, delta and omicron.
The virus is primarily transmitted when people breathe in infected droplets or when the droplets land in the eyes, nose or mouth of a person nearby. Infection may also occur if someone is exposed to droplets that stay in the air over time. Transmission can be mitigated through preventive measures, such as face masks and social distancing.
General symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, headache, nasal congestion or runny nose, muscle or body aches, sore throat, loss of tase or smell, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Some symptoms can last for weeks or months, Weida said.
Complications of the virus include respiratory failure, liver dysfunction, bleeding and blood clotting disorders, septic shock, cerebral encephalitis and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.
There are several tests that can be administered for COVID-19: polymerase chain reaction or PCR test, antigen test and antibody test.
With a positive test, patients must isolate or quarantine for five days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients can leave isolation or quarantine if symptoms resolve and they are fever free for 24 hours. This must be followed by five days of masking.
There are several vaccines that help protect the body against COVID-19 including Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen & Janssen.