Published July 15th, 2020
What is a Viral Infection?
Viral infections are caused by microscopic germs called viruses which latch onto a host and attempt to corrupt normal, healthy cells by infecting them with their DNA. Once the virus successfully infects a cell, the corrupted cell then produces copies that contain the virus’s DNA. This process repeats itself; damaging and killing healthy cells along the way. The viral infection manifests in different symptoms and illnesses depending on the host and the virus itself.
How Does a Viral Infection Cause a Pandemic?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.” Initially, a viral infection that actively spreads within a single community or region is classified as an epidemic. Once the virus has spread to at least three countries, it can be elevated to pandemic status. Pandemics are typically borne from a new disease, which means most people do not have natural immunity against it; further contributing to the speed in which it spreads.
Another factor which made COVID-19 hard to contain is that up to 25% of those infected are asymptomatic. This means that they can be carriers of the virus without experiencing any of the common symptoms such as fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Being unaware of their status, asymptomatic carriers unwittingly infect other people simply by being out in public and interacting with others. This viral trait greatly contributed to the exponential growth of infections, eventually culminating in WHO officially declaring COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
Viruses can infect different types of hosts and in different ways. Cross-species infection is also possible. The prevalent theory being the new coronavirus originated in bats. These wild bats infected other animals which were subsequently captured and sold in a wet market in Wuhan, China, where the first case of COVID-19 was documented.
The coronavirus generally has two main avenues for transmission:
- Air droplets
When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the droplets may be inhaled by an otherwise healthy person who then gets infected– which is why social distancing of at least 1 meter is advised.
- Contaminated surfaces
Studies suggest that the virus can survive anywhere from 1 to 3 days on surfaces and items. Touching a contaminated surface such as a handrail or grocery store items then touching your eyes, nose, our mouth, can lead to infection. Washing your hands often using soap and water, especially if you left the house, is advised by WHO and leading healthcare professionals.
How Can We Flatten the Curve?
Cooperation on a global scale. Healthcare systems all over the world, even those in highly-developed first world countries such as Italy, are being overwhelmed due to the sheer speed at which infections are taking place. “Flattening the curve”, means we must work together to slow the infection rate down enough to prevent hospitals from being overrun. We can do this through social distancing, staying home as much as possible, and frequent hand washing with soap and water. Additionally, there are mobile apps that can help us combat the spread of COVID-19.
5 Effective Mobile Apps to Help Stop the Spread of Viral Infection
Healthlynked COVID-19 Tracker
- Checking up-to-date COVID-19 statistics
- Keeping track of news from WHO
The Healthlynked COVID-19 Tracker can be downloaded from the iOS app store and the Google Play Store for free and it contains useful features for both frontline workers and civilians. It allows users to self-report their status, whether not positive/asymptomatic, not positive but with symptoms, or positive, in order to inform the app’s COVID MAP to show cases in different geographical locations. Statuses per location are color-coded for easier comprehension, and it has the added feature of informing the user’s contacts through the app if the user tests positive; helping to prevent further infections.
TouchGuard - Personal Hygiene App
- Improving hand-wash hygiene
- Enforcing best practices to prevent infections
TouchGuard is a simple but effective digital tool to help minimize your chances of infection. This app can be downloaded and installed on your Apple Watch. TouchGuard tracks your hand movements and gives you an alert whenever you try to touch your face which prevents possible infection. It also aims to curb this habit, providing statistics such as number of touches within a set period of time to make you more vigilant.
iAuditor - Digital Inspections
- Conducting paperless hygiene and infection prevention audits
- Customizing inspection templates to assist viral prevention initiatives in hospitals
- Collating data and gathering useful insights to streamline COVID prevention processes
Available for both Android and iOS, iAuditor is a customizable mobile inspection app mainly used to improve and maintain safety and quality in numerous industries. iAuditor offers a number of ready-to-use COVID-19 templates that can be used in different settings including hospitals, home offices, and communities in order to ensure that best hygiene and infection prevention practices are implemented; minimizing the chances of further transmission.
Corona Checker by OpenMed
- In-app consultation
- Getting a free sample testing kit if your symptoms qualify
The Corona Checker from OpenMed allows users to answer a simple quiz which screens their symptoms to determine possible infection. Additionally, the app even sends free sample testing kits to users with valid symptoms. Users can then take the testing kit to their healthcare provider so they can get tested by a medical professional.
CDC App - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Getting updated information regarding COVID-19 developments and related news
This Android and iOS app from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows users to stay on top of COVID-19 updates from leading authorities in health and diseases. It has a filter option so users can filter out content types they don’t want and customize their home screen view. The app includes Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, as well as several content types including stories, videos, and podcasts.