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The novel coronavirus that recently originated in Wuhan,China has grabbed headlines and caused concern among public health officials around the world.
In December 2019, a new strip of coronavirus first made the jump from animals to the human species. Its source is believed to be an animal market in the Wuhan district of China. This market sold both live and dead animals. It was the first instance of coronavirus since 2002 when another of its strip caused the SARS.
The number of cases of the Coronavirus disease promptly & rapidly multiplied and before Chinese authorities could take any substantial action thousands of cases had already been recorded in Wuhan and its neighbouring regions. Several countries closely followed with outbreaks of the Coronavirus disease, and soon all the continents except Antarctica were claimed by this new and unknown virus strip. In India, the first case of Coronavirus disease was recorded on 30th January 2020, in Thrissur, Kerala.
Currently, 20% of the cases across the globe have been classified as critical, and only 2% of them have resulted in death.
Here are some of the most common queries about coronavirus.
1. What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that effectuates illnesses in animals and humans. However, a large number of these viruses are found in animals. In humans, this virus primarily causes respiratory problems.
2. What is COVID-19?
On 11th February 2020, the World Health Organisation officially christened the disease caused by the new and unknown strip of Coronavirus as Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19.
3. How does Coronavirus spread?
It can spread through direct contact with an infected person; through large droplets that land on you when a patient sneezes or coughs in your vicinity; if in contact with a contaminated surface; through aerosols or tiny air particles (below 0.3 microns) carrying the virus; and through a communal spread.
4. What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
A few symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Common cold
- Dry cough
- Ache & pain
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
- Breathing difficulty
- Runny nose
A handful of these such as dry cough, cold, fever, etc. are common in cases of mild COVID-19 and can be treated with due medical attention at home; however, quarantine is necessary.
On the other hand, if a patient demonstrates breathing difficulties, he/she requires more serious treatment and maybe hospitalization.
5. Is the Coronavirus disease more critical than winter flu?
Symptoms of mild COVID-19 are similar to that of winter flu. However, a patient suffering from critical Coronavirus disease demonstrates more serious medical complications such as severe breathing troubles and aches & pains.
Additionally, the mortality rate on account of COVID-19 is higher and more serious compared to winter flu.
6. What are the chances of me contracting the novel Coronavirus disease?
The likeliness of a person contracting COVID-19 depends on the following factors:
- Age - Elder people are likely to develop symptoms of the Coronavirus disease.
- Health condition - Individuals with underlying health complications are more susceptible to catching critical Coronavirus disease.
- Exposure - People who are exposed to the virus regularly, especially health officials, are more likely to catch this disease. Also, individuals living in areas where someone has been tested positive for COVID-19 are also at risk.
7. What are the preventive measures for Coronavirus disease?
The preventive measures for coronavirus disease as per WHO and local and national health authorities are:
- Regularly clean your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them with soap and water to kill the virus.
- Keep at least a 6-metre distance from anyone suffering from coronavirus or flu.
- Do not touch your mouth, eyes, or nose without washing your hands thoroughly.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a bent elbow or a tissue when sneezing or coughing. If using a tissue, dispose of it immediately after.
- When feeling sick or unwell, isolate yourself and wear an N95 mask to prevent its propagation.
- If you are developing more severe symptoms such as respiratory problems, seek medical attention immediately.
8. What is the time between catching Coronavirus and developing symptoms?
The incubation period for coronavirus disease can be somewhere in between 1 to 14 days. In most of the cases, patients have exhibited symptoms on the 5th day. However, this period is not conclusive.
9. Who can develop critical symptoms of COVID-19 faster than others?
Scientists and health experts are yet to pronounce a definitive profile of individuals more likely to catch this disease.
However, as per the cases globally, it could be said that old people and individuals with pre-existing health complications such as cardiac diseases, lung diseases, high blood pressure, or diabetes are more at risk.
10. How many coronaviruses have been found in humans to date?
Including the most recent COVID-19, a total of 7 viruses from this family have made the jump from animals to humans. While most of these viruses only trigger symptoms like the common cold, a few Coronaviruses have been infamous for more severe respiratory problems such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
11. What is a novel disease?
A novel disease is new and unknown to global health officials, and its countermeasures have yet not been developed. The new strip of coronavirus caused the novel Coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.
12. Is this Coronavirus the same as what caused SARS or MERS?
No, SARS and MERS were caused by SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, whereas the umbrella term by which scientists were defining different versions of this new virus is SARS-CoV 2. This novel virus is a close relative of SARS-CoV but is demonstrating a more aggressive proliferation across the globe.
13. What is a communal spread?
A communal spread is the proliferation of a virus in a community. The term is used to describe the phenomenon of spreading of a disease in a particular region, town, or city.
14. Is the new coronavirus transforming into a more dangerous strain than it began?
Every virus mutates over time; it depends on the strain of a virus. A strip of virus that can effectively replicate and spread apace is considered more aggressive and transforming faster. For instance, from 103 samples of coronavirus studied by Chinese scientists, it was found that there were primarily two strands of it that emerged from animals to humans. These strands were named as S & L. While the former is the ancestral strip, it was only found in 30% of the samples, while the latter was present in 70% of the samples. This result suggests that the L strip is replicating more aggressively; however, whether this strip and its mutations are more deadly is inconclusive at this juncture.
15. Is any treatment available for the Coronavirus disease?
As of yet, there is no antiviral medicine or vaccine available for this disease. Individuals suffering from COVID-19 or exhibiting its early symptoms need to adopt the preventive measures suggested by global health experts. People who are severely affected by it, however, need to seek immediate medical attention in hospitals.
As per sources, tests for antiviral medicines and vaccines are underway.
16. Are face masks effective in the prevention of the Coronavirus disease?
Although its effectiveness to counter COVID-19 is not yet borne by conclusive tests, masks do help in its prevention or postponement.
A surgical or disposable mask is effective to intercept large droplets enter one's mouth or nose; however, it is ineffective against aerosols. An N95 mask is a more efficient variant and can even block aerosols from entering one's respiratory system.
Nevertheless, usage of a mask does not eliminate risks of transmission through eyes or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.
17. When should I use a mask?
Health experts suggest using a mask under the following circumstances:
- If in the vicinity of the patient(s).
- If someone is affected in your pertinent region, town, or city.
- If tending to a patient.
Other than that, if you are developing symptoms of coronavirus disease, then also you should wear a proper face mask to prevent it from spreading.
18. How to use a face mask?
Usage of a disposable or surgical face mask:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Hold the mask by ear-loops and wear it accordingly; refrain from touching its outer layer.
- If adjusting is required, do so only by the ear-loops.
- Dispose of it after a single use in a tightly sealed trash can.
- Wash hands after its disposal.
Usage of an N95 mask:
- Wash hands thoroughly.
- Wear it by the ear-loops.
- Mould the upper portion of the mask in your nose's shape.
- Check if it fits tightly.
- Try to breathe sharply and check for any leakage of air.
- If air is leaking through the mask's peripheries, mould it again.
- Abstain from touching its outer layer when outside.
- Take it off by the ear-loops.
- Dispose of only if contaminated by nasal secretions, excess sweat, or blood.
To prevent contaminating it, you can also add an adjunct layer over it.
Also, if you were in close contact with flu or coronavirus patient or visited one in care, your N95 mask should be discarded.
19. Is it possible to catch COVID-19 from an animal source?
Coronaviruses are found mainly in animals, some of which make the jump to humans. For instance, MERS-CoV was sourced from dromedary camels and SARS-CoV from civet cats. Hence, it is possible to contract SARS-CoV 2 or its other versions from an animal source; however, any particular source is not yet confirmed.
20. Will the arrival of summer season reduce cases of Coronavirus disease?
Scientists and medical experts have yet not confirmed whether the world would witness a reduction in the scale at which coronavirus is spreading.