The outbreak of Covid19 has brought about a lot of unanswered questions. Because no one has witnessed such a disease before, practically everyone around the world is kept on their toes.

Is there going to be a vaccine soon? How do I know I have covid19? Does my pre-existing health condition put me at a higher risk? How do I know who is infected?

These questions and many others have kept scientists and health practitioners busy. The fight against this deadly virus has brought about unity for a common goal.

Hence, we must understand this virus. This will increase our chances of survival and better prevention.

What is coronavirus? And is it the same as Covid19?

Contrary to what many people think, coronavirus isn’t new. 

Coronavirus refers to a group of viruses that cause respiratory issues. Some examples of these viruses are Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) who were previous versions of the coronaviruses that went pandemic.

The SARS pandemic of 2003, just like the “Spanish Influenza” remains a hallmark in human history. The virus first infected humans in 2002 in Guangdong, China. It was noted to be zoonotic, which implies that it is a virus transmitted between animals and humans.

Its source was traced to bats and has symptoms such as fever, headache, malaise, shivering, and diarrhoea. The 2003 epidemic resulted in at least 774 deaths from the over 8000 cases recorded.

The human-to-human transmission of the SARS virus was contained through isolation and quarantining of infected people till it passes out of their system and could no longer be transmitted. 

MERS, first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, just like SARS is a zoonotic virus. Its source was linked to infected dromedary camels. Common symptoms of MERS are fever, cough, shortness of breath and expectoration. 

Since its emergence in 2012, cases of it have reported in about 27 countries with 80% of the human cases coming from Saudi Arabia. As of January 2020, according to WHO MERS situation report, a total of 2519 cases have been recorded with 866 total deaths.

So, what is Covid19?

Just like MERS and SARS, covid19 is one of the groups of coronavirus disease that causes respiratory difficulties. It is the new epidemic currently causing deaths of tens of thousands around the world.

Covid19 is caused by a virus known as SARS-COV-2. This is because it shares the same symptoms with the popular epidemic SARS virus. Although, many cases reported symptoms of Covid19 are often mild with a few leading to severe respiratory illness like pneumonia and bronchitis.   

Just like MERS and SARS, covid19 is zoonotic and has its origin from an animal seafood market at Wuhan, China. 

Although, the particular source animal hasn’t been confirmed yet. Covid19 has successfully jumped to humans, since its emergence in December 2019 with close to 2 million human cases already.

Symptoms of Covid19

As earlier mentioned, many symptoms of covid19 could be mild or severe in some cases. However, common symptoms that are signs of covid19 include;

  • High-temperature Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat and runny nose
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Muscle aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

How does covid19 spread?

Since it started infecting humans in December 2019, Covid19 has been confirmed to be transmitted from person to person. It spreads through respiratory droplets from a cough or sneezes from an infected person. So, transmission happens when another person comes in contact with these droplets. 

The droplets, when released to the air can only travel a few feet from the person that coughs or sneezes. It can either fall to the ground or surface close to the person. Covid19 has been detected to live on surfaces for up to 24hrs and even for a few days on some surfaces.

So, it is important to maintain Social-distancing to avoid contact with droplets from infected persons. Likewise, regularly disinfecting surfaces and washing of hands after touching some surfaces is advised.

Who is at risk of contracting Covid19?

The covid19 virus is such an uncertain virus when it comes to who can be infected. This is what makes the pandemic unnerving. 

First, it has been noticed that people who contracted the virus can either be symptomatic or asymptomatic. This implies that some people (symptomatic) will show symptoms associated with the virus while some (asymptomatic) wouldn’t.

So, it is hard to know who is infected or not. This phenomenon has led to the unnoticed initial spreading of the virus across the world. However, researchers continue to study the virus to understand the group of people that are at higher risk of severe illness from covid19. 

Although, about 81% of the recorded cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report only experience mild symptoms and can recover after a few days of isolation and medication. It is very important, for the sake of the approximately 19% who could potentially face severe illness and even death to understand factors to put them at risk ahead of others.

Who are at higher risk of severe illness from Covid19?

Older People

Throughout this pandemic, studying the trend in the cases, researchers from China have been able to detect that people over 60 years of age are at the highest risk of severe illness from covid19. Also, reports from the US CDC further supports this claim from the Chinese researchers. In the US report, 31 to 59% of the people aged 75 to 84, who tested positive for covid19, had a severe illness from covid19. Compared to the age group 20-44 years old, only about 14 to 21% of them displayed severe illness from covid19.

The simple connection between these two can be traced to the fact that age affects the immune system. Even before now, older people are at higher risk of getting infected with common diseases out there than the younger ones. Thus, their display of severe illness from covid19 is partly justified by that.

People with other medical conditions

Viruses are a set of diseases that pounce on any chance to weaken the immune system. Such is that of covid19. 

People with medical conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and so on are likely to have a weaker immune system. Thus, if infected, they face a higher risk to be hit with severe illness from covid19 than people with a clean bill of health.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is an existing respiratory condition. It is a chronic lung condition that causes inflammation of the breathing tubes and affects the airways. 

There is no cure for asthma and is the best manage by avoiding asthma triggers. These are simply things or conditions that can provoke your asthma putting you in a bad health state. Asthma triggers include dust mites, tobacco smoke, alcohol, strong fragrances, extreme weather, acid reflux, air pollution, charcoal grills and so on.

Common symptoms displayed by asthma patients include wheezing, coughing, rapid breathing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Some medicines can help suppress asthma both, in terms of short and long reliefs. Common asthma medicines such as asthalin, corticosteroids, Cromolyn sodium and so on are usually taken by breathing them in using inhalers or nebulizers. 

However, the best way to manage asthma, as there isn’t a direct cure, is for asthma patients to be aware of their asthma triggers and use prescribed medications.

Also Read: The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

How can covid19 affect asthma patients?

Firstly, it is important to mention that being asthma patients don’t imply a higher risk of contracting covid19. The cases around the world have clearly shown that anyone can be infected. 

Research by Zhang et al., where the characteristic of 140 patients infected with Covid19 in Wuhan was studied, showed that there’s no link between covid19 infections and asthma patients. None of the patients had a history of asthma, suggesting that not necessarily every asthma patient will be infected with covid19.

Covid19 is a virus that affects the respiratory system. Such infection can trigger an asthma attack, putting the asthma patients at a higher risk of experiencing severe illness from covid19. This prompted the CDC to categorize patients with moderate or severe asthma under the group with a higher risk of severe illness from covid19.

How does asthma patients protect themselves from a severe illness from covid19?

It has been revealed that being asthma patients don’t increase the risk of contracting covid19. Thus, sticking to the WHO guidelines against covid19 spread and personal care should be paramount to asthma patients. 

Additionally, to avoid severe illness from covid19, asthma patients are advised to;

  • Continue with their normal medications
  • Plan for an emergency supply of medications
  • Get a peak flow meter to monitor symptoms. This will allow asthma patients to differentiate between Covid19 and asthma symptoms
  • Stay free of stress and manage your asthma trigger
  •  Have your fast-acting bronchodilator close to you every time, in case of worse asthma attacks.
  • Clean and disinfect the house generally, to avoid insects that serve as an asthma trigger for you


The outbreak of covid19 has put the world into a panic. Not even one person is safe.

Although covid19 has symptoms close to that of SARS and MARS, the potential asymptomatic nature of covid19 makes it scarier. With over 1.8 million cases and tens of thousands of deaths, covid19 continues to shake the world.

The fact that some group is at higher risk of severe illness from covid19 makes matter worse. Older people and people with existing medical conditions need to be more proactive.

Asthma patients, who have underlying respiratory conditions face a higher risk of severe illness from covid19. Aside from sticking to the general guideline for the prevention of covid19, asthma patients must take extra measures. This will reduce their chances of severe illness from covid19.

While we wait for a vaccine, we are encouraged to stay clear, stay at home and be hygienic to reduce the spread of the deadly virus.


Tags: Coronavirus asthma risk, Coronavirus asthma deaths, Coronavirus

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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.