Coronaviral disease - a few important facts

Posted on March 9, 2020 at 9:50 PM

There are so many myths, misconception, recommendations and restrictions floating around about the Coronavirus epidemic, which has led to widespread confusion and panic. Let me try and set if few facts straight.

• Coronaviruses are a large family of enveloped RNA viruses. They circulate in humans, in whom they usually cause the common cold, and in various other animals like camels, bats and birds. It is only when the coronaviruses of animals develop the ability to infect humans that they cause epidemics, because humans do not have pre-existing immunity against them


• The new Coronavirus has resulted from man’s interference with nature. In the seafood market at Wuhan, live animals which would never ever have met in the wild, like pangolin, bats and snakes were kept in close proximity. This enabled the coronaviruses in them to exchange genetic material, and form a new virus. This novel (new) coronavirus has been named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease caused by it is named COVID 19 (COronaVIrus Disease 19). This virus is similar to the coronaviruses that caused the SARS (2003) and MERS (2012) epidemics, and is the 7th Coronavirus to infect humans. Studies suggest that this virus is a recombinant virus between the bat coronavirus and an origin-unknown coronavirus; however, this is yet to be confirmed.


• Human transmission occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The virus has been detected in blood, urine and saliva, but the contribution to transmission by the presence of the virus in body fluids is unknown. There is mounting evidence to suggest that even people who do not suffer from any symptoms, but carry the virus in the nose and throat, can transmit the disease to others. Mother to child transmission during childbirth, and transmission via breast milk, is considered unlikely


• The median incubation period (from when the virus enters the body, to the appearance of symptoms) has been estimated to be 5 days


• The virus attaches itself to receptors in the cells of the nose and throat, and causes symptoms similar to the common cold. In some, it travels down to the lungs, and causes severe viral pnuemonia


• The present COVID 19 epidemic, similar to the earlier coronavirus epidemics like SARS and MERS, is very mild in children. According to the data published by The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only 2% (of the 72,314 cases from 31 December 2019 to 11 February 2020) were aged 19 years or younger. The majority of confirmed cases (87%) were aged 30 to 79 years.


• The only way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the virus. 


• Masks do not prevent the entry of this virus into your body. Masks are recommended to be worn by people who have symptoms, to prevent dispersion of virus when they cough and sneeze


• Avoid touching the mucous membranes (the moist inner surfaces) of the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.


• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol. Remember, alcohol can get absorbed from the skin, especially in children with lacerated (wounded) skin, and is to be used only if there is no ready access to soap and water.


• Maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet), from those who have a fever, or are coughing or sneezing. See that the room is well ventilated, and ensure air circulation by using ceiling or pedestal fans, air conditioners etc.


• Practice respiratory hygiene (i.e., cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, discard tissue immediately in a closed bin, and wash hands). Note that handkerchiefs and towels are not recommended.


• Seek medical care early if you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.


• Share your previous travel and contact history with your doctor


• Avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products, and handle raw meat, milk, or animal organs with care. Consumption of well-cooked meat is safe.


• Early recognition of new cases is the cornerstone of prevention of transmission. Immediate isolation of all suspected and confirmed cases is recommended for at least 14 days, either at home or at hospital, depending on the severity of symptoms.


• There is currently no vaccine available. Vaccines are in development, but it may take up to 12 months before a vaccine is available


• No specific treatments are known to be effective for COVID-19 yet; therefore, the mainstay of management is supportive care to relieve symptoms, and to support organ function in more severe illness. Various antivirals are being trialled in patients with COVID-19, however, there are no data to support their use. Clinical trials with Remdesivir (which shows in vitro activity against SARS-CoV-2) have started in the US and in China.


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