COVID-19

The unexpectedly rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world has caused a critical shortage of personal protective equipment, test kits and even the vaccines themselves.
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Total cases in Slovakia
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Deaths in Slovakia
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Recovered in Slovakia

Statistics from date: August 17, 2021

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be pandemic in March 2020. Today the virus is known everywhere to be a severe, acute respiratory disease. Its incubation period is 2-14 days.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease associated with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a new coronavirus strain not previously identified in humans before December 2019. There are different types of coronaviruses. Although most of them circulate among animals, some can infect humans. This is the first pandemic ever caused by a coronavirus.

What complications can COVID-19 cause?

A percentage of people with COVID-19 have to be hospitalized, some even in intensive care and they sometimes require longer-term care. People that develop severe respiratory syndromes may need pulmonary ventilation, which can increase their susceptibility to secondary bacterial infections.

Complications may occur in patients with COVID-19, such as stroke or heart attack, because of increased blood clotting. Some patients experience neurological symptoms such as changes in personality or attention span.

The hospitalization rate increases rapidly with age and people above 60 or in deteriorating health are especially prone. With COVID-19, the risk of death rises rapidly with age and is significantly higher than with influenza. It is becoming increasingly clear that some patients may suffer long-term effects from COVID-19, including respiratory distress and increased heart rate.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Although the course of COVID-19 varies, people that contract it may be asymptomatic or develop fever, cough, sore throat, change or loss of taste and/or smell, momentary dizziness, diarrhea, fatigue and muscle pain.

In severe cases, there might also be severe lung infection, sepsis and septic shock, along with generalized infection and inflammation, all of which require specialized medical care and support. A patient’s condition can worsen quickly, often during the second week of illness.

When is antigen or PCR testing better?

The PCR test is said to be the gold standard. It detects a small amount of the virus in the nasopharynx and clearly confirms that the patient is carrying the virus, has clinical symptoms and certainly has COVID-19. Contact with other people may spread it further.

PCR testing is able to detect a few virus particles because it is highly sensitive. There is a “multiplication” of genetic material in the laboratory (which provides high specificity - the certainty of “that’s it”) and it can detect the virus well. For accurate diagnosis and also screening, PCR testing is adequate.

But a disadvantage is the demanding nature of testing and the length of time it takes. Antigen tests detect the presence of the viral envelope or parts of it with a colored test strip on a test-labeled antibody. Therefore, it is less sensitive - a sufficient number of envelope parts have to be present for the test strip to be seen.

Yet detecting the presence of the viral envelope and/or antigens from the viral envelope does not confirm the presence of the virus’s genetic material, which is alone responsible for its virulence and causes COVID-19. But the advantages of antigen testing are its simplicity and speed. PCR testing confirms a diagnosis and screens contacts when there is time and a potential patient or a spreader can remain quarantined.