The novel coronavirus, which is a respiratory virus, is causing worldwide panic.
While we are still not sure about the true lethality of this virus, it is claiming lives and health officials are trying to contain the virus with travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The outbreak is being traced back to a market selling live poultry, seafood and animals in Wuhan, China.
But the virus is now spreading in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam and the United States. Certain other countries are still evaluating probable cases.
While the information available on this newly identified virus is not yet enough, here is a quick rundown of what we have figured…
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What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses can infect both animals and people, leading to respiratory tract illness with symptoms ranging from common cold to severe conditions like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
Not many are aware that this is not the first time its outbreak has been reported.
During a 2003 attack, it had killed nearly 800 people. Over a period of time, the virus particle in this category continued to change its antigenic structure, leading to the new virus.
The biggest concern is that within a short period of time many people have been affected and hospitalized.
In the last 10 days, from 17, the number of affected cases have gone up to around 200+ in China followed by 5 countries including the United States.
The outbreak has been observed in places like Japan, Korea, China and Thailand.
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Symptoms of novel coronavirus
Coronaviruses cause upper respiratory infections like runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and may be accompanied by fever sometimes.
Most people can confuse its symptoms with that of regular cold or flu virus.
In some people, the symptoms may appear mild like dry cough, fever, heavy breathing but other cases may develop viral pneumonia (and severe acute respiratory syndrome), putting their life at risk.
The incubation period of the virus is not known yet and is assumed to be anywhere in the range of 10 to 14 days.
A study of the people who succumbed to the virus revealed that they were already suffering from some underlying conditions.
They were either frail, had heart disease or cancer already, which basically means their immune system was compromised and their bodies could not fight the virus.
However, the information coming in on the virus is rapidly changing so we cannot be completely sure.
Do we have a treatment in place?
As all coronaviruses do, this one has also come from animals but it looks like it transfers from one person to another.
However, there is no treatment available at the moment.
Antibiotics won’t work on this one because it is a virus and antibiotics work only on bacterial infections. This needs antiviral treatment but we do not have any such treatment available that will surely work on it.
Should we Indians be worried?
According to an official TOI report, with the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak spreading, five persons were put under surveillance in Maharashtra soon after they returned from China to the city airport in the last 48 hours.
Two of them, exhibiting mild cough and cold symptoms, were admitted to Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli, the city’s main isolation facility, late on Thursday as a precaution, said officials.
However, state epidemiologist Dr Pradeep Awate has said they exhibited no specific coronavirus symptoms.
Two of the five passengers had been to Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has spread to several countries, including US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
“Those two passengers are also currently asymptomatic like the other three, who had been to other parts of China,” said Awate.
Authorities at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are ready to utilise the isolation ward for the treatment of suspected cases of novel coronavirus if detected in India.
According to Dr Om Srivastava, Director Department of Infectious Diseases at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, “People in India along with those who are travelling across the world should be concerned about this virus as it is contagious, and it spreads rapidly.
There is a need to be aware and informed without being alarmed. preading awareness is necessary and individuals should be more careful about their day-to-day activities.
If an individual experiences its symptoms, he should be immediately auctioned and consulted to the doctor without any delay as ignoring the symptoms can lead to complications.
However, as of now there are no cases of Coronavirus found in India but indeed the virus has the potential to be deadly hence people need to be aware.
There isn’t any need to panic as there are protocols that have been placed where airports have already started thermal screening and multi specialty hospitals have isolation units that will help one diagnose and treat the infection.”
What should you do?
To stay protected, it is important that people stay safe from any kind of pneumonia virus.
Maintaining good hand hygiene is also important – wash your hands regularly and do not touch your face or mouth much.
Some experts are also recommending the use of masks, however, international agencies feel that it cannot curtail the virus from traveling.