According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest reports, the novel coronavirus has claimed 3204* lives and infected 81,048* people in China. The virus whose spread began in the city of Wuhan (China) has not only expanded to other cities across China but has also spread worldwide. With 72,469* cases reported from at least 143* countries, the global count has reached to 153,517* confirmed cases and 5735* deaths. The World Health Organization has advised people to follow precautionary measures to prevent falling prey to this virus. Before we share the tips to prevent novel coronavirus, here are some of the common facts about the deadly virus you need to know.
What is the 2019 novel coronavirus?
The 2019 novel coronavirus (named as COVID-19) is a new virus that causes respiratory illnesses, ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory syndrome. It can spread from person-to-person and was first identified in the 1st week of January 2020 during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. It belongs to the family of viruses such as SARS and MERS.
Where did it originate?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses in animals such as camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Similar to MERS and SARS, these coronaviruses can rarely infect people and then spread between people. Numerous studies in China report a link to an animal market in the city of Wuhan where the virus is suspected to have emerged from an animal.
Are people outside China at risk of COVID-19?
Although the virus originated in a small city in China, it is now rapidly spreading across the world. Several cases have been reported in 143 countries outside China such as the USA, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Nepal, France, Italy, Iran, and Sri Lanka. According to data from the WHO as of 15th March 2020*, 72,469 cases have been confirmed in 143 countries outside China. WHO has assessed COVID-19 as a very high risk across the globe including China.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
According to the WHO, the virus can spread from person to person via respiratory droplets. So when a person suffering from COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, the droplets can land on surfaces and objects near the person. Hence, transmission between people can occur through droplets, by coming in close contact with the patient or by sharing objects of personal use. This is why it is suggested to maintain a safe distance of more than 3 feet (1 meter) from a sick person.
What are the signs and symptoms of coronavirus?
The symptoms are mostly similar to flu and flu-like diseases caused by other respiratory viruses. According to the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the patients suffering from COVID-19 have reported symptoms of mild to severe respiratory illnesses such as:
-Shortness of breath
-Diarrhea and vomiting, in some cases
In severe cases, pneumonia in both the lungs is also seen, which can eventually prove fatal. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
Should people without any symptoms be worried?
The CDC estimates that the incubation period of COVID-19 might range from 1-14 days. The incubation period is the time between exposure to the virus and the appearance of the symptoms. Sadly, there is no information if the infection can spread during the incubation period. But, to be on the safer side, WHO has advised people who are sick or are suffering from respiratory illnesses to:
– Stay at home and take sufficient rest
– Cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough
– Sneeze into your elbow if you don’t have access to tissue/handkerchief
– Discard used tissues in a bin
– Clean your hands after sneezing/coughing
– Disinfect objects/surfaces you touch
– Seek medical attention in case of fever, cough or difficulty in breathing
How do you differentiate between normal flu and coronavirus symptoms?
If someone comes with respiratory disease, it is very difficult to distinguish between flu and coronavirus by just looking at the symptoms. This is the reason that makes diagnosis important. Your doctor may recommend lab tests (such as sputum and/or throat swab) to detect the virus and know if the symptoms are due to influenza virus, coronavirus or other respiratory viruses.
How is the new coronavirus treated?
As of 15th March 2020, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the virus. The treatment in people infected with the coronavirus is aimed at relieving the symptoms and providing supportive care to the patient.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating COVID-19?
No, antibiotics work only against bacteria and not against viruses. As COVID-19 is a viral infection, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.
Does the novel coronavirus affect only older people?
There are reports of teenagers, young adults and older people falling prey to the new coronavirus in China. So, it goes without saying that people of all ages can be infected by the novel coronavirus. However, older people & those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or cancer) might be more vulnerable to suffer from an infection and become severely ill.
Can pets at home spread COVID-19?
While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. However, it is always wise to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets to lower the risk of infection.
Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?
There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19*. The best way to stay protected and prevent coronavirus infection is to follow proper hygiene and stay away from people suffering from the condition.
Has anyone in India been infected with coronavirus?
According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), as on 16th March 2020 at 4.00pm, there are 114 confirmed COVID 2019 cases across India. Of these, 97 are Indian Nationals and 17 are Foreign Nationals. It is reported that 13 people have been cured/discharged and 2 people died, one each in Karnataka and Delhi.
Should I be worried about COVID-19 being in India?
It goes without saying that the increasing number of cases in India has created panic among the public. But this is the time to be prepared, stay alert and not panic. The misinformation being spread about Novel Coronavirus is alarming. Here is a quick help guide with authentic information from sources such as CDC and WHO on coronavirus. Read and share it with your family, friends, and relatives
The Indian Government has set up thermal screening counters at all International airports across the country. However, we should follow everyday prevention tips to be on a safer side to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses as the virus can spread from a sick person via respiratory droplets and close contact.
What can I do to protect myself from coronavirus?
These few simple everyday preventive actions can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including the COVID-19[2,5].
– Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
– Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
– If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
– Stay home when you are sick, but consult a doctor if you have fever, cough or breathing difficulty.
– Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in trash.
– If you wear a mask, make sure it covers your mouth and nose and avoid touching it once it’s on.
– Always discard a single-use mask after each use and wash your hands after removing it.
– Follow no-touch greeting to keep yourself safe. Prefer namaste or hand waving over a handshake.
– Keep your distance of at least 1 meter from anyone coughing or sneezing.
If you have traveled to China since January 1, 2020, and you have fever, cough, or breathing difficulties, seek urgent medical attention and do inform your doctor about the travel history. Also if you have symptoms and travel history to a coronavirus-affected areas (like Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea, etc.) or close contact with such a person or working in a healthcare facility/ labs where coronavirus patients are being taken care of.
What is the Indian Government doing to prevent coronavirus?
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India has issued a helpline number (+91-11-23978046) to seek any help or solve any query related to coronavirus. The Government has also released helpline numbers of states & union territories for coronavirus. In case of any queries, you can also mail at the helpline Email Id for coronovirus – email@example.com.
The Government has also appealed to passengers who have traveled to China since 1st January, 2020, to please come forward for self-reporting to the call center and visit the nearest health facility if experiencing fever, cough or breathing difficulties, and also inform their doctor about the travel history.
Can wearing a medical mask all the time protect against Novel Coronavirus?
Simple medical masks can prevent your nose or mouth from coming in contact with infected droplets. But, not everyone needs to use a mask. WHO says that use masks only if you’re sick and have symptoms like cough or difficulty breathing. If you’re healthy and taking care of a person suspected of COVID-19 infection, you must wear a mask.
What should I keep in mind while using a mask?
Masks will be effective only if you combine its use with frequent hand-washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. You must clean your hands before wearing a mask and after removing it. Ensure that your mask covers your nose, mouth and chin perfectly without leaving any gaps between your face and mask. Avoid touching the mask while using it. If you do, wash your hands immediately. Dispose of the mask in a closed bin. Remember to remove the mask from behind without touching the front of the mask.
How can I and my family prepare for COVID-19?
It is best to stay prepared with a household action plan to protect yourself and your family from the deadly coronavirus. Talk to people in your family as well as a community to discuss what can be done in case of an outbreak. Make sure people who are at a high risk of serious complications such as those with already existing health conditions and elderly people have their supplies of medications for a long time. Be prepared with a list of emergency contact numbers including nearby hospitals, doctors, healthcare service centres, support groups, etc.
What to do if someone in my family gets sick from COVID-19?
The best way to avoid the spread of the virus is to stay home when you are sick and get medical care. Self-isolate by staying at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache, low grade fever (37.3 C or above) and slight runny nose, until you recover. In case of symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, chest pain, confusion or bluish coloration of the lips/face, get immediate medical attention. Dedicate a separate washroom for sick members. Clean your hands with soap & water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils and personal items.
How can I prepare for COVID-19 at work?
The first and foremost thing is to be aware of the changes happening at your workplace and in/around the region. Talk to your employer about their potential plan of action including sick leave policies and work-from-home options.
*Note: The numbers are as on 15th March 2020 and reported by the WHO
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
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