A newly identified respiratory virus, known as ‘Coronavirus’, which originated in China. It has now spread to other countries as cases are being reported in Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, the U.S., France and Australia. With over 1,200 infected in China, almost 40 people have lost their lives, it is important to understand this virus and its symptoms.
In India, seven people who have returned from China have displayed mild symptoms of this virus; Kerala health ministry reports that they have been kept under observation. Apart from this, at least 73 people have been reportedly kept under medical surveillance at their homes in Kerala.
What is Coronavirus?
The term ‘coronavirus’ comes from the crown-like spikes it has on its surface, as Latin for “crown” is “corona”. Found in animals like camels, bats, and civets–this virus is usually not transferable to humans. In some cases though, the coronavirus mutates and passes from animals to humans, and spreads from there.
The first known and reported case emerged in December 2019 from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
· It is a large family of viruses that causes respiratory illnesses such as the common cold.
· While most people tend to get infected with the virus at least once in their life, the symptoms usually range from mild to moderate.
· Sometimes, the virus can manifest itself in the form of lower-respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis.
· Patients infected with the new virus typically show symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and breathing difficulties, with acute respiratory distress syndrome in severe cases.
How does it spread?
Given that the virus is infectious, here are things you must know about how it spreads:
· Air:- One can contract the virus from viral particles from a cough or sneeze;
· Personal contact: Touching or shaking the hand of someone who has been already infected can cause it to spread;
· Touch: Touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands can cause it to enter your system and wreak its havoc.
Course of treatment
There is no specific course of treatment, and doctors recommend adequate rest. Here’s what else you should do:
· Contact your doctor to start the medication to relieve the symptoms.
· Set up a humidifier in your home/bedroom to ensure that your throat is not dry.
· Take hot showers to relieve your sore throat and cough.
· Drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself hydrated.
If the symptoms do not subside, visit your nearest hospital or medical professional immediately. Do note that there is no vaccine to combat this virus yet.
How to protect yourself?
The WHO recommends the following:
· Wash your hands with soap and water frequently or use an alcohol-based hand rub;
· Covering your mouth and nose with your flexed elbow or a tissue when coughing and sneezing;
· Avoid close contact with those displaying fever and cough symptoms; and if you are caring for someone who is suffering, make sure you do not put yourself at risk
· Avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals at markets.
· Thoroughly cook meat and eggs. The WHO recommends, “The consumption of raw or under-cooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.”
Remember that if you display any of the symptoms mentioned above, meet a medical professional without any delay. Do not self-medicate or rely on any home remedies to treat your symptoms.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)