The novel coronavirus is one of the most devastating pandemics in recent history. The most recent time when the world witnessed a pandemic whose effects resemble those of COVID-19 was during the H3N2-caused flu pandemic of 1968, which claimed over a million lives. As of this writing, over 14 million people worldwide have contracted COVID-19, including 609,986 people who have died. The primary concern of the human race right now is to survive COVID-19. People have started adopting the best practices like social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands. Many countries across the globe have adopted mandatory stay-at-home guidelines, shutting down public places, businesses, and schools. Economies across the globe have taken a severe hit, with the IMF warning in April, that it is the worst downturn since the Great depression. Public Health is one of the sectors that has been significantly affected by the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 presented a new and unpredictable challenge that the healthcare system was not equipped to deal with, and the urgent mobilization of resources needed to combat the crisis has led to health service disruption, staff reassignment, and screening postponement, among others. In this article, we will examine the impact of COVID-19 on public health and its implication on the health sector.
What is COVID-19?
Before we delve into our subject of discussion, let’s take a moment and briefly examine COVID-19. So, we have all witnessed the devastating effects of COVID-19 from various news reports and the media. But what really is this phenomenon referred to as COVID-19? How is it spread? What are some of the symptoms?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause disease. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 strain of the coronaviruses. It is spread when someone comes into contact with droplets emitted by an infected person when they sneeze or cough. These droplets only travel a few feet away then fall to the ground, or on surfaces, and that’s why social distancing and sanitizing public surfaces is crucial in the fight against COVID-19. The virus has an incubation period of 14 days. Symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, body or muscle aches, headache, vomiting or nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue.
Impact of COVID-19 on Public Health
The novel coronavirus has partly or entirely disrupted health services, especially those related to non-communicable diseases. This is an issue of great concern since non-communicable deaths are the leading cause of death across the world, killing 41 million annually, which represents around 70% of total deaths globally. People who have non-communicable diseases face the highest risk of critical COVID-19 related illnesses or death. According to a recent survey by the WHO, which examined 155 countries, over half of the nations surveyed had partially or entirely disrupted hypertension treatment services, 31 percent for cardiovascular treatments, 42 percent for cancer-related treatments, and 49 percent for diabetes-related treatments. Although rehabilitation is a crucial component for a healthy recovery for COVID-19 victims, there was a disruption of rehabilitation services in over 60 percent of the country’s services. This implies that since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many patients who require health services for diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer have not been able to receive treatment. It is essential for countries to develop innovative measures to ensure that basic services for non-communicable diseases are being offered, even as they continue to tackle COVID-19.