Fight Coronavirus – Follow Good Hand and Respiratory Hygiene
Published on 2 February 2020
PHEIC Declared by WHO
A new, novel strain of coronavirus (CoV) has been found in humans. It was identified and named as 2019-nCoV by the Chinese authorities on 7th January, 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a PHEIC – Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This coronavirus initially occurred, in mid-December 2019, in a group of people with pneumonia, who were associated with a seafood market that sold live animals in the city of Wuhan in China. The disease has since spread to their family members and healthcare staff. Nearby Hubei province and many cities surrounding Wuhan are under lockdown to stop the spread of the infection. Millions of people have been quarantined. The death toll continues to rise and it is currently at 259 with 11,821 confirmed cases in China alone. Through infected travellers from China, the novel coronavirus has spread to several Asian countries, Australia, Europe and North America. Globally, confirmed cases continue to rise and it is currently at 11,953, including 2128 new cases in the last 24 hours. The risk is very high in China and high in regional and global levels, as per the latest WHO situation report on 1 February 2020.
The need of the hour is the illness prevention by the people and intervention by the governments.
This new challenging health emergency requires the cooperation of the governments and companies around the world. To fight the virus and contain the illness, funds, personnel and resources are needed. Since 2005, there have been five global health emergencies – swine flu in 2009, polio in 2014, Ebola in 2014 and again in 2019, and Zika in 2016. World has overcome many epidemics that turned pandemic.
The infected citizens should be persuaded to seek health and hygiene recommendations. Governments must prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Under the electron microscope, this virus resembles the corona of the sun and hence the name coronavirus, which in Latin means crown or halo. It is similar to the family of viruses that cause a wide range of illnesses from the common cold to the more dangerous Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). MERS originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012, spread to 27 countries, and killed more than 850 people. SARS originated in southern China in 2003, spread to 30 countries and killed nearly 800 people.
Human Transmission of Coronavirus
Viruses circulate in a range of animals and can spill over to people through mutation and increased human-animal contact. According to research, viruses thrive in bats, pigs and human cell lines. There are two hypotheses related to virus transmission through bats. Firstly, bats can contaminate human food source and spread the virus. Secondly, bats can play a role in transmitting the virus to animals with which humans come into frequent contact, such as hoofed livestock animals.
The first crucial step is to identify the animal reservoir for the virus. MERS was transmitted from camels to humans and SARS from civet cats to humans. As for the coronavirus, it is widely present in many animals. But there is no evidence that pets, such as dogs or cats, can be infected with the novel coronavirus, according to WHO. The Chinese scientists have identified snakes, Chinese krait and cobra, as the primary source of the coronavirus outbreak. Human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Early control of the virus in its place of origin is essential to prevent a global pandemic. To contain an outbreak, the reproductive rate of the virus – the number of people each infected person infects – on an average should be kept below 1. It was 1.4 to 2.5 for the coronavirus in mid-January 2020.
Symptoms of Coronavirus Infection
Signs of mild infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In some cases, diarrhoea has also been reported. Signs of severe infection include pneumonia and respiratory failure. In people with weak immunity, pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease and asthma, old people and young children, it can lead to severe cough, pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, impaired liver function, kidney failure and even death. So far, there are at least four generations of spread of the novel coronavirus infection. It means the person who contracted the infection from a non-human source or an animal has infected another person who infected another person and then infected another person.
Incubation Period of Coronavirus
The incubation period of the coronavirus remains unknown. Some sources say it could be between 10 and 14 days.
Treatment of Coronavirus
First line of defence against any disease outbreak are drugs. There are NO antibiotics for viruses. Antibiotics work only on bacteria. But people with weak immunity, infected with coronavirus, will be given antibiotics in the hospital to avoid bacterial co-infection. Symptoms can be relieved and treated. Severe illness will receive supportive care.
Just as there is no vaccine for the cold virus, there is no vaccine for the novel coronavirus. In case an epidemic turns into a pandemic, drugs buy time to make a vaccine. Australia and China have lab-grown copies of the coronavirus which are being used to develop vaccines. It takes a month just to characterize the virus and understand its biological behaviour, and close to six months to design a vaccine. Currently, more than 200 potential treatments for the novel coronavirus are being trialled around the world.
Healthy people who prefer non-allopathic treatments can follow the preventive measures from the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy), Government of India. In case of a rapidly spreading global contagion, it is preferred to follow an authorised healthcare provider’s advice.
Global Public Health – A Sensitive Issue
In global public health, ownership of newly discovered virus samples is a contentious issue between countries, as it is tied to commercial exploitation. A virus isolated in one country could be an intellectual property (IP) of another country. Hence, there is a global disagreement, foot-dragging and hesitancy when it comes to sharing virus samples among countries, during an outbreak, as there is fear of losing control over technology-transfer rights and scientific collaboration leading to discovering diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. To overcome this issue, WHO had put forth a ‘Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework’ to provide some benefits to countries from where new viruses have been isolated.
China has shared the genetic information of the novel coronavirus to help the physicians in other countries diagnose it in patients.
As the disease outbreak is rapid, wide and aggressive, there will be travel and trade restrictions between cities, regions and countries. Several international airlines have cancelled flights to China. Airports have introduced screening measures. Many countries are evacuating their citizens from Wuhan. Airlines from the Gulf countries connect passengers from China to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The best way to contain the spread of the epidemic is to avoid travel during this time.
Countries and corporations must take steps to abide by WHO’s advisories – ‘International Health Regulation (2005).’
- Maintain personal hygiene.
- Follow general hygiene measures for the prevention of airborne infections.
- Wash hands with soap and water.
- Keep hands clean before cooking and eating.
- Keep hands clean after using the toilet, touching door knobs, light switches, and TV remotes, handling wastes, and gardening.
- Cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow while sneezing or coughing.
- Cover mouth with a face mask in case of cold, flu or caring for the sick.
- N95 mask has a 6-layer protection and can filter 95 percent of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns, although coronaviruses on average are much smaller at 0.1 micron.
- Eat light, soft and easily digestible foods.
- Avoid contact with people who have fever and cough.
- Thoroughly cook meat and eggs before consumption and handle raw meat, milk and animal products with care.
- Avoid unprotected direct contact with wild or farm animals.
- Wash hands after handling pets to avoid bacterial infections from E.coli and Salmonella that can be transmitted from pets to people.
- Avoid touching face, nose, and eyes.
- If sick with fever, cough and breathing difficulties, seek medical help immediately and share travel history with healthcare provider.
- For symptomatic management of the infection, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.
- Strengthen immunity and keep inflammation at bay by following a healthy diet and lifestyle practices.
- Avoid air travel, work remotely, use teleconferencing – put technology to good use.
- Cell phones are germ carriers; keep it clean with a damp soft microfibre cloth; use either mild soapy water or an electronic friendly sanitiser.
- Be aware of morphed images, deep fake videos and misinformation online related to coronavirus scaremongering.