According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest reports, the novel coronavirus has claimed 132* lives and infected 5997* 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 68* cases reported from at least 15* countries, 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 (2019-nCoV) is a new virus that causes respiratory illnesses, ranging from 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 which 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 source in this market.
Are people outside China at risk of 2019-nCoV?
Although the virus originated in a small city in China, it is now rapidly spreading across the entire country. Moreover, several cases have been reported in 15 countries outside China such as the US, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Nepal, France, and Sri Lanka. According to data from the WHO as on 29th Jan 2020*, 68 cases have been confirmed in 15 countries outside China which takes the global count to 6065. WHO has assessed 2019-nCoV as high risk across the globe with China being at a very high risk.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
According to WHO and CDC[1,2], the other coronavirus (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), spread through respiratory route via droplets which can be transmitted through a sneeze or cough. This suggests that the mode of transmission of the novel coronavirus might be similar. Hence, transmission between people can occur through droplets, by coming in close contact with the patient or by sharing objects of personal use.
However, the exact mode of transmission of the 2019 novel coronavirus is not known. Initially, it was suggested that the virus might have spread from animal to person. But, with the increasing number of cases in people who were not exposed to an animal market, it is believed that person-to-person transmission is also possible. As the data is limited, there is no clear picture on how easily the virus spreads between people. Also, the fact that this new strain of the coronavirus is novel to humans, the information related to its signs, modes of transmission and the source of infection is very limited.
What are the signs and symptoms of coronavirus?
According to the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the patients suffering from 2019-nCoV 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 (the WHO was alerted following severe cases of pneumonia in Wuhan which lead to the identification of the 2019 n-CoV), which can eventually prove fatal. The symptoms are mostly similar to flu and flu-like diseases caused by other respiratory viruses.
Should people without any symptoms be worried?
CDC estimates that the incubation period of 2019-nCoV might range from 2-14 days. Incubation period is the time between the exposure to the virus and the appearance of the symptoms. Sadly, there is no information if the infection can spread during 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 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 a 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 29th Jan 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 the 2019-nCoV?
No, antibiotics work only against bacteria and not against viruses. As 2019-nCoV 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 might be more vulnerable to suffer from an infection and become severely ill.
Can pets at home spread the 2019-nCoV?
At present, there is no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats can get infected with the virus and lead to transmission to humans. 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 2019-nCoV*. 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 a statement released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), India on 30th Jan 2020, one positive case of the novel coronavirus has been reported in Kerala. The patient was a student of Wuhan University and is kept in isolation in a hospital in Kerala. The condition of the patient is stable and his health is being closely monitored.
Should I be worried about 2019-nCoV being in India?
The Indian Government has released an advisory for people travelling from China and 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 2019-nCoV[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.
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.
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 appealed to passengers who have traveled to China since 1st January, 2020, to please come forward for self-reporting to the call centre and visit the nearest health facility if experiencing fever, cough or breathing difficulties, and also inform their doctor about the travel history.
*Note: The numbers are as on 29th Jan 2020 and reported by the WHO
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)
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