What is COVID-19/CORONAVIRUS?
According to the WHO, Corona virus is a group of infectious viruses that cause a contagious disease called ‘Covid19’ when it infects a living host (E.g.: Humans).
What is a virus?
It is an infectious, microscopic nucleic acid molecule surrounded by a protein coat and that can multiply in a living host such as a human or an animal.
How bad is the current COVID19 situation?
According to WHO’s publication on 18 March, 2020, globally, 191127 cases and 7807 deaths have been reported around the world. These statistics are changing every minute.
As of India, WHO confirms a total of 137 patients and 3 deaths that have been reported as of 18 March, 2020.
In Tamil Nadu, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 2 cases have been reported as of 19 March, 2020. Out of the two, one case has been treated and discharged.
Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)
When do I get symptoms and what are the symptoms of COVID19?
According to the WHO, symptoms of Covid19 may take up to 14 days to start, following an infection (Incubation period).
The most common symptoms include a fever, dry cough (cough without sputum), generalised tiredness and in severe cases, breathing difficulty (1 in every 6 people).
However, other flu like symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion, body pain, diarrhoea etc. have also been reported.
Many others do not experience symptoms and up to 80% of the infected people recover fully without any extensive treatment.
Who is at a higher risk of COVID19?
Elderly population, people with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or similar comorbidities and those with decreased immunity (E.g. Cancer patients, HIV patients, kidney failure patients, transplant patients etc.) should be extremely cautious as there is a higher chance of them developing serious illness and associated complications.
How does this virus spread?
According to the CDC, the main method of spread of virus is
- Person to person contact: The most common method is by close proximity (within 6 feet) to an infected person and by droplet infection following coughing or sneezing.
- In some instances, a person who has been infected but is not yet symptomatic (or with mild symptoms) can spread the infection to others around them.
- Contact with contaminated surfaces and objects: The Corona Virus is believed to survive on various surfaces for up to 3 days and any contact with these surfaces can lead to a possible infection.
- Community spread: The virus can survive in air and hence, spreads within the community without any direct contact with an infected person or object.
- At present, infection spread through pet dogs or cats is not reported apart from a single isolated case in Hong Kong where Corona virus was found in the fur of a dog. WHO also advises people to avoid visiting any live animal markets, to avoid touching surfaces contaminated by animals, touching raw meat or consuming raw meat.
What preventive measures should I take?
- Hand washing with soap and using a hand sanitizer that contains more than 60% alcohol.
- Coughing or sneezing onto a bent elbow.
- Maintaining at least a 3 foot distance from others.
- Avoiding unnecessary touching of your face with your hand
- Building your immunity by having a good diet, improving sleep patterns, having a healthy diet and reducing stress. This can help ease recovery if infected.
- Social Distancing and Self Isolation are the two measures that have been suggested all around the world. By doing so, chances of the infection spreading widespread within a short duration of time is reduced, thereby flattening the ‘epidemiological Curve’ which represents the number of cases over a period of time.
Reducing the rate of infection is essential so that healthcare facilities and organisations have a longer period of time to tackle the illness and prevent spread to vulnerable population. It also allows the healthcare services to function within capacity limits, preventing the possibility of insufficient treatment or resources to those who need it.
When should I suspect COVID19 infection?
If you are not having any travel history or history of contact with an infected person and not showing any symptoms, self-quarantine for up to 14days is advisable. During this period, development of one or more symptoms should warrant a visit to the nearest health-care provider. The doctor would assess you and refer you for a COVID19 test if required.
However, in the event of travel history or exposure to an infected person, with or without symptoms, you can visit a doctor who might advice you to have a COVID19 test.
In case of an elderly person or someone with immunity deficiencies, be vigilant of any symptoms and visit the doctor immediately in case of symptoms or breathing difficulties.
Are there any medications I should take when I get symptoms? Will antibiotics be useful?
According to the WHO, antibiotics do not have any effect on the infection and therefore should not be misused for prevention or treatment.
If symptoms develop, best option is to visit the hospital before self-treating. New reports from WHO also suggest that pharmacy available pain killers such as Ibuprofen or similar pain killers can aggravate symptoms of COVID19. Therefore, it is best not to self-medicate.
Is there a treatment or vaccination for COVID19?
As of now, there is no known drug specific to COVID19. Treatment is symptomatic and with the use of several anti-viral medications which will be prescribed to you by the doctor. Vaccination is still under investigation and has not come to the market yet.
Does wearing a mask prevent COVID19?
Wearing a mask when you are not infected, not symptomatic or looking after an infected person is not advised by the WHO. The disposable masks are only for a single use and multiple use of these masks could pose a threat by itself.
Also, there is a shortage of masks worldwide and those who genuinely require it (healthcare workers, infected people) might not be able to buy it, if there is unnecessary usage of these masks.
Hand hygiene should be followed before and after the use of masks and the correct methods of wearing the mask should be followed.
Also, the use of multiple masks should be avoided.
Smoking, Alcohol consumption and COVID19
According to the WHO, smoking or excessive alcohol consumption is not advisable and may weaken your immune system.
What should I do if I am from Chennai and I suspect COVID19 infection?
In Chennai, The Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital is the first place that should come to your mind in case of a suspected COVID19 infection.
Once you go to the hospital, a doctor would consult you, take a detailed history and clinically examine you. He would then order for the COVID19 test if warranted. A nasopharyngeal swab is then taken and sent in for testing to the concerned lab (King’s Institute in Guindy is one of the govt. approved labs). The swab might take less than 5-10mins and is not painful.
Other tests such as an X-Ray or CT chest, blood tests, sputum samples, aspirate samples etc. might also be taken to confirm the diagnosis.
Visit https://curie.health/ for more info!