The recently identified coronavirus that emerged in December 2019 in China has now acquired epidemic proportions affecting most of the global population. The highly contagious viral disease later named COVID-19 began circulating from its epicenter in Wuhan, Hubei province of China. The source of the virus outbreak has been linked to the meat market in Wuhan which involves the sale of seafood, dead and live animals for consumption purposes.
The unprecedented rise in the number of affected individuals; over 101 countries/areas/and territories are grappling with the virus outbreak as confirmed by the situation report published by the World Health Organization (as on March 08,2020). Despite the imposed lockdown of Wuhan city, over 105,586 laboratory confirmed cases and 3584 deaths have been reported worldwide so far. Although the majority of cases are confined to Mainland China, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases internationally including those in the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship, in Japan. The COVID-19 outbreak has been declared as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The situation is alarming and has caused an immense amount of social unrest globally. The rampant spread of the virus calls for a need to educate yourself on this mysterious disease.
What Is Known of the Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses which resemble a solar corona when viewed under an electron microscope is a family of viruses that cause mild to severe respiratory illnesses. The coronaviruses have been associated with the common cold, and severe respiratory diseases that shook the world in recent times such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The new strain of the coronavirus (nCoV) which has sparked a virulent wildfire globally in the form of COVID-19 is no exception to the deadly nature of these viruses.
Earlier it was said that the nCoV is a zoonotic virus that made its way into the human body through animals similar to SARS which was transmitted from civet cats and MERS which hopped from a particular breed of camels to humans. Although there is a dearth of information pertaining to this newly identified coronavirus (nCoV), its human to human transmission has been confirmed.
Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and is manifested in the form of various symptoms ranging from mild to severe forms. These symptoms appear within 2-14 days of exposure to the viral infection. While the symptoms may appear anywhere between 5-6 days of exposure, there have been instances where a person who was asymptomatic tested positive for the virus.
Mostly restricted to the respiratory region, the virus may cause gastrointestinal troubles as well. Several infected people may recover from the illness sooner or later. However, in some cases the disease may take fatal forms and pose a threat to life.
The various symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Dry Cough
- Runny nose
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Pneumonia in some cases
- In severe cases, it may lead to severe acute respiratory distress, multiple organ failure and even death of the affected individual.
How Does the Virus Spread?
Coronavirus primarily spreads via droplet infection mediated by the saliva or mucus discharges of the infected individual. These droplets when land on a surface have the potential to infect anyone. Human to human transmission may occur by sharing breathing space with an infected individual, touching infected surfaces, shaking hands, as the most common causes of spread.
The virus can live on surfaces such as fabrics, tabletops, doorknobs, taps, handles for several hours. Anyone who touches such surfaces and later uses their virus laden hands to touch their face, nose and mouth is likely to catch the infection.
Who’s at Risk?
According to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several groups are at a high risk for COVID-19 infections. These include:
- Older adults
- Individuals with a comprised immune system
- Individuals suffering from chronic health conditions of the kidney, heart and lungs
- Individuals with an international travel history particularly to high risk countries where the virus is active
Is There Any Treatment Available Yet?
There is no definitive treatment or preventive vaccine for this newly identified strain of coronavirus yet. However, supportive treatment is being implemented to help the patients. Scientists are working to develop a treatment method to curb this virus. However, since the lockdown on Wuhan couldn’t contain the virus, employing preventive strategies is the only way to limit its progress.
Preventive Strategies on How to Stay Safe
Taking care of your personal health is an understated way of contributing towards public health. The WHO has released a public advisory to educate people on how to protect themselves from this disease and curb its spread. The standard recommendations include:
Wash our hands regularly and thoroughly using soap and water or an alcohol based rub to eliminate any virus particles on your hands.
Avoid the unconscious act of touching your face, mouth and nose repeatedly through the day. This is the most common pathway that allows the entry of microbes into your system.
Maintain a distance of at least 1 meter with anyone who is having a cold and cough episode to avoid catching droplet infection.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue to curb the spread of infectious particles in your vicinity. Make sure you sneeze and cough into a tissue, and dispose it immediately to prevent its spread.
Besides following the WHO advisory, adopting these simple additional habits can help you steer clear of any viral infections:
Take care of your personal hygiene. Bathe regularly and clean and clip your fingernails.
Avoid using utensils or dishes used by an infected patient.
Keep a check on travel advisories released by the government. Avoid non-essential travel particularly to high risk countries.
Stay at home and take ample amount of rest if you are feeling unwell. You can switch to work from home to reduce the amount of outdoor exposure and lessen your chances of contracting an infection.
Eat a healthy wholesome diet to provide your body its required dose of essential nutrients. Perk up your meals with immune-boosting foods to keep your immunity levels high.
Invest your time in sleeping for 7-8 hours every-day. Sleeping well will help provide your body adequate rest which in turn will rev up your immune system encouraging it to work to its full potential.
Wear a mask if you are in close contact with an infected individual.
Disinfect your house regularly to wipe out viral load from your environment.
When to Seek Medical Review?
Consult a health professional if you:
Experience fever, cough and respiratory distress.
Have a history of travel or residence in any of the high risk countries with reported cases of COVID-19.
Were in close contact with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 prior to the onset of symptoms.
What Measures to Follow If You Have Recently Been to a Region Affected with COVID-19
It is necessary to get yourself checked if you have recently travelled to a high risk country to rule out the possibility of being infected. This will help prevent the spread of the disease to others in and around you.
Seek immediate medical attention if you develop fever and experience sore throat, runny nose and difficulty breathing. You might be directed to a quarantine facility for better diagnosis and containment of the infection.