Epidemiology of COVID-19
In order to gain an in-depth understanding of the epidemiology of COVID-19, it is crucial to define coronavirus as a disease. A coronavirus leads to an infection in the throat, nose, or sinuses, which is not dangerous. However, at the end of 2019, a new type of such a virus emerged in China. SARS-CoV-2 quickly spread around the world and caused the development of a global pandemic with billions affected by mandatory quarantine measures, business shutdowns, travel restrictions, and economic instability (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021a). The novel coronavirus results in a respiratory tract infection, which can affect both upper (nose, upper throat, sinuses) and lower (lungs, windpipe) tracts (CDC, 2021a). It spreads mainly through contact with those infected and is a massive threat even to relatively healthy people.
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Although it originated in Wuhan, a new type of coronavirus quickly spread all across China and caused a national lockdown. After a number of cases of those infected in other countries, COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Limited access to testing and high infection rates of frontline medical professionals caused national healthcare crises and contributed to the rapid pace of the illness’ spread (CDC, 2020a). Barely a year after the announcement of the first case in Wuhan, the global number of confirmed cases is around 94 million with close to 2 million deaths attributed to COVID-19 (Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, 2021). Due to alarming transmission dynamics, the virus managed to harm millions of people around the globe.
Larger countries tend to have more cases although death rates are significantly more representative of specific governments’ efforts to manage the spread of the virus and facilitate the highest quality of care to those infected. Mexico, Brazil, Russia, and the United States were affected the most in terms of overall numbers of confirmed cases, including deaths (World Health Organization [WHO], 2020a). It is also crucial to look at the number of cases relative to population, which demonstrates that Belgium, Israel, and the Czech Republic were hit the worst (WHO, 2020a). Based on statistical data, Eastern Europe and Latin America are the regions harmed the most (WHO, 2020a). Although the majority of figures disclosed to the public need to be treated with caution, it is evident that the pandemic affected tens of millions of individuals globally. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021b) report that “nationally, surveillance indicators tracking levels of SARS-CoV-2 circulation, associated illnesses, and hospitalizations decreased or remained stable but elevated during the week ending January 9, 2020” (para. 1). Even though the presented data indicates that the United States is slowly moving towards recovery, it is important to consider weeks 52 and 53 of 2020 as the primary sources of risk, which can only be properly assessed in the following fortnight.
While the number of cases remains stable or starts to decrease in Europe, the absolute number of those infected is high, especially among older individuals. In the United States, the percentage of deaths due to the virus has declined although death rates have increased in multiple countries, including Russia, Lithuania, and Brazil (CDC, 2021b). There is a worldwide trend in increased hospital admissions and occupancy because of the pandemic, which reflects the quality and effectiveness of medical care (WHO, 2020a). Healthcare providers around the globe struggle to manage high levels of COVID-19 circulation.
Common Risk Factors
In order to further discuss the global efforts to address the COVID-19 healthcare crisis, it is crucial to examine common risk factors associated with the disease. Recent organ transplantation, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, and severe lung conditions make a person more vulnerable to contracting the illness (CDC, 2020b). In addition, health issues that require long-term treatment, including kidney and heart diseases are associated with extreme clinical cases of COVID-19 (CDC, 2020b). People at moderate risk include the ones with diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, hepatitis, or heart failure (CDC, 2020b). Moreover, individuals suffering from chronic neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis are at a relatively higher risk of infection than the general population (CDC, 2020b). Morbidly obese people tend to have a number of chronic illnesses, which makes them part of the risk group. Lastly, when pregnant women test positive for COVID-19, the virus can be unpredictable and harm both the health of a mother and an embryo, which means that pregnancy is another risk factor (CDC, 2020b). All of the aforementioned medical conditions are crucial to take into consideration to identify populations most susceptible to the virus and its severe consequences.
Besides a person’s medical history, their lifestyle choices and habits can contribute to the assessment of their chance to get the virus. Smoking, excessive drinking, and eating, as well as a lack of exercise, contribute to an individual being vulnerable to experiencing a severe form of COVID-19, which can lead to death (CDC, 2020b). People from low-income communities are in danger of the same outcome because of insufficient availability of resources, healthcare services, and necessary information (CDC, 2020b). As a result, African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern populations are at a greater risk of contracting the virus and experiencing complications. When it comes to identifying the most vulnerable groups, governments and healthcare organizations should consider socioeconomic and behavioral factors instead of focusing solely on pre-existing medical conditions and demographics.
While it is crucial to acknowledge the risk the aforementioned groups are under, the two categories of people who are most likely to get infected and suffer from complications are healthcare workers and older adults. The latter group is full of long-term care facility residents, which makes it medically vulnerable. The elderly often have more than one underlying chronic condition, including hypertension, respiratory disease, and diabetes (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [NHLBI], 2020). Living in a space with other high-risk individuals makes older people in care homes easy targets. On the other hand, elderly individuals residing in their own makes them socially vulnerable due to common feelings of abandonment and loneliness (NHLBI, 2020). Healthcare workers are at a higher risk due to frequent exposure to the virus. Infected patients contribute greatly to COVID-19’s easy transmission in healthcare facilities. Thus, disease occurrence and severity vary across different groups based on age, occupation, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions.
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Risk factors are relatively the same around the world although some groups are more exposed to the disease than others in certain countries. Some lack the resources to provide medical staff with the necessary protective gear, while others fail to accommodate the aging population with ventilators. The level of stability of a specific country’s economy is a determinant of how lower-income communities are protected.
Global Efforts to Address the Problem
Until the majority of the world’s population gets vaccinated or herd immunity is achieved, SARS-CoV-2 remains a massive global issue that requires a well-structured response from governments and healthcare organizations around the globe. Political leaders worldwide have promoted the implementation of initiatives to integrate quarantine, social distancing, and mandatory isolation as methods to prevent the pandemic’s spread. Governmental healthcare departments invested in training for medical workers provided protective equipment and distributed informational resources via online and offline channels. The establishment of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Facilitation Council has been integral for “global collaboration accelerating the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines” (WHO, 2020b, para. 3). Although some regions of the world coped with the pandemic worse than others, it is undeniable that community influencers, youth organizations, and religious leaders all over the world contributed to the development of interventions for COVID-19 prevention and health promotion.
Implications for Nursing Practice
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a number of questions regarding the ability of the healthcare system to respond to various economic and administrative challenges. One of the advantages of the aforementioned crisis, if there are any, is that medical workers can utilize the insights gained from 2020-21 in their practice. For instance, the pandemic has demonstrated the need for nursing professionals to become community leaders and prevent possible misinformation. I can follow the examples of so many nurses worldwide who have decided to put an end to fake news in an effort to stop chaos and panic. In addition, COVID-19 has encouraged healthcare professionals to pay more attention to vulnerable populations, particularly older and underprivileged people. I would like to use the information I have accumulated over the course of the pandemic and become a leader in my local community. As a care coordinator, I can assess all the available data regarding a certain health concern, organize it, and distribute it to the general population. I believe that the lack of informational resources available to the public is often the primary cause of the failure of government policies to minimize the effects of COVID-19.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020a). COVID-19 overview and infection prevention and control priorities in non-US healthcare settings. Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020b). People with certain medical conditions. Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021a). Cases, data, and surveillance. Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021b). Key updates for week 1, ending January 9, 2021. Web.
Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. (2021). Covid-19 data in motion: Monday, January 18, 2021.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2020). COVID-19 guidance for the public. Web.
World Health Organization (2020a). COVID-19 weekly epidemiological update [PDF document]. Web.
World Health Organization (2020b). Coronavirus global response: Access to COVID-19 Tools-Accelerator Facilitation Council holds inaugural meeting. Web.