Update: Coronavirus (Covid-19) has now left it’s mark on almost all countries globally.
India has been put on a state of lockdown from March 26th for a period of 21 days. Italy, US, and the UK are reeling under the ever increasing pressure created by the pandemic.
We give you a ready reckoner of information and how to protect yourself and others from the pandemic.
Check you Risk with this simple Self-Assessment tool: https://bit.ly/covid-19-checker
All the information below has been compiled from official and trusted sources which are mentioned at the end of the article.
Coronavirus has been buzzing in the news since the last few months. As of April 07th, the time of writing this article, over 1.3 million cases have been reported, out of which over 47000 cases (roughly 5%) are still in a critical condition and there have been over 74000 reported deaths globally. It has spread to over 200 countries around the world after originating from the region of mainland China.
In India, there are over 4700 cases with 136 deaths.
So what exactly is the coronavirus? Is it really that dangerous? Do you really need to be afraid? Or is the media making a mountain out of a molehill? What do we need to do? Let’s find out.
What is coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) website, “coronaviruses are a large family of viruses with some causing less-severe disease, such as the common cold, and other more severe diseases such as MERS and SARS.”
The latest outbreak has been attributed to a new strain of the coronavirus , called the 2019 novel coronavirus, or Covid-19.
Where did it come from?
It has been traced to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, situated in the Hubei Province of China.
The outbreak has spread rapidly to various countries around the world, affecting Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Nepal, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, the United States, Australia and France, among others. All cases have been reportedly linked to people who had visited Wuhan.
The original source of the coronavirus is mostly an animal which infects a human, and is then further transmitted to others through human contact. The 2003 SARS virus was transmitted from civet cats whereas the MERS-CoV was found to have been transmitted from camels. It is suspected that the nCoV has been transmitted from snakes or bats, although it is yet to be scientifically proven.
Common signs of infection include cough, runny nose, headache, fever, chills, sore throat, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In some severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Since these resemble the symptoms of seasonal flu, it makes it harder to recognize.
Doctors require laboratory tests to determine and confirm a case of coronavirus. It has an incubation period of 2-16 days.
How dangerous or fatal is it?
There have been more than 1.3 million cases reported, by April 07th, with 74000+ deaths, making the mortality rate of the novel coronavirus roughly 2%. This means that a person has 2% chance of dying as a result of the coronavirus, and has a 98% chance of recovery. Most of the people who have died are seniors, with pre-existing health issues and a weaker immune system, making them more susceptible to the infection.
Also, most of the people (around 80%) only display mild symptoms, and only roughly 5% get affected very critically.
For comparison, the case fatality rate for SARS coronavirus was 10%, and for MERS virus 34%.
How does coronavirus spread?
Being similar to the common cold and flu, it spreads through the air by coughing or sneezing, and through close personal contact, like touching or shaking hands. It has a high transmission rate, of 3-4 Ro, meaning that each infected person spreads it to an average of 3-4 persons.
It is also transmitted by touching an object or surface with virus on it, then touching mouth, eye, or nose.
It has been spreading very quickly and it is advised that utmost care and hygiene be taken when in public or contact with others. We outline the precautions below.
Precautions to be taken
Similar precautions to be taken as the common cold and flu.
- 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.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Follow with hand washing or sanitizing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as cell phones, keyboard, and doorknobs.
Surprisingly, WHO has said that masks are not very effective in protecting against the coronavirus in public spaces.
It says that washing hands is more effective in comparison to masks. Also, masks should be used by people who are infected themselves, so that they don’t spread their bodily fluids to others, and transmit the virus further.
Recommendations for people with respiratory symptoms:
If you have symptoms of fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and in the last 14 days you:
- Traveled to Wuhan, or
- Visited an affected region in China, South East Asia, or
- Had close contact with someone who had traveled to an affected region in China and had respiratory symptoms.
What Should You Do:
- Seek proper medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Avoid public transportation if ill with respiratory symptoms.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Use a mask to cover your mouth if you do have to visit public places, to prevent further spread of infection.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available.
The WHO, in its Mythbusters FAQs, addresses the question:
“Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?”
People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
A lot of Fake News has been doing rounds on Social Media, like forwarded messages on Whatsapp. We bust a few of them below.
One such message claimed that Wuhan’s coronavirus can be cured by drinking one bowl of freshly boiled garlic water.
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.
Another one claimed that cow dung and cow urine can cure a person suffering from the coronavirus.
There is still no cure available for nCoV, no vaccine or treatment has been produced till date. It is still under development and might take upto a year to 18 months to come to market. The 2002-03 SARS vaccine took around 20 months to reach market.
Eating non-veg makes you susceptible to Covid-19.
No! There is no evidence of this. You can safely consume non-veg, meat, etc. as long as it is cooked properly.
Stay Home, Stay Safe.
In the past few weeks, it has spread like wildfire and most of the general population has been advised to remain in self quarantine, at home, to protect themselves, and prevent further spread of the infection.
The utmost precautions still need to be taken to be on the safe side, but no need for panic by seeing the reports in the media.
No Zombie Apocalypse is coming! At least not yet.
- WHO information on Novel Coronavirus: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
- Latest on the Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
- CDC – About 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html