Is coronavirus curable; symptoms of the disease and how to prevent it

A pandemic rarely spreads like a wave without warning; from outbreak to epidemic, it washes over the world in large tufts in a phased manner.

While World Health Organisation and various authorities across the world have their own way of tracking that progression, for humans, it is often a cycle of mild curiosity, carelessness, followed by apprehension, paranoia and then finally the urge to stay informed and updated.

The arrival of the coronavirus, and the muted methods being recommended to the public to arrest its spread, are a hard sell for many, and that's not surprising.

But since the experience of China, Italy, and Iran with the novel Coronavirus, the world has learnt several things about the new virus strain.

Hence, we decided to compile a list of Q&As to understand what we can learn from different governments' responses, why older adults seem to be more at risk of serious illness and how can we minimise the risk of exposure and infection.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may or may not cause illness in animals or humans.

In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

How did coronavirus start?

This, ironically, is googled more often than 'how can I protect myself and other from  coronavirus', or 'how to prevent coronavirus'.

And the curiosity to the virus' origin is unsurprising because health officials are still working to trace the exact source of this new coronavirus.

Although early hypothesis believed that the virus strain passed on to humans from wild animals in a seafood market in China's Wuhan, a report by John Hopkins medicine centre quotes a study according to which the individual with the first reported case became ill on 1 December 2019, and had no link to the seafood market. Investigations are ongoing as to how this virus originated and spread.

How many cases of coronavirus in India?

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India has a total of 130 cases of COVID-19, out of which, 14 have been cured so far while three have succumbed to the disease. 

Nearly 180,000 people worldwide have been infected and over 7,000 people have died, as of 16 March.

How to prevent coronavirus?

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, and the latest government advisories as applicable in your area.

Latest India-related updates can be tracked here.  You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, especially before touching your eyes, nose, face and mouth. Soap water and alcohol-based hand rubs are still our best defence against coronavirus or wash them with soap and water.

  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

  • Stay home or limit social interactions as advised by your local government authorities. Avoid non-essential travel. If possible, avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease. And if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.

Is coronavirus curable?

While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease.

Doctors are merely providing supportive treatment based on symptoms and complications reported by each individual.

However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines, but these are all in development and testing phases.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus? The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually, but in extreme cases patients may develop serious respiratory problems.

Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell, while for some symptoms do not appear until few days after having contracted the virus.

It is best to seek medical attention if you notice any symptoms, and always call in advance at your clinic and apprise them of your symptoms and travel history from any of the countries hit.

What does coronavirus do to your body?

The Guardian reported that China's experience with the virus indicates that about 80 percent of confirmed cases had fairly mild symptoms (defined as no significant infection in the lungs).

About 15 percent had severe symptoms that caused significant shortness of breath, low blood oxygen or other lung problems, and fewer than 5 percent of cases were critical, featuring respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ problems.

However, it is possible that a larger number of very mild cases are going under the radar, and so this breakdown in severity could change over time.

Should I wear a mask?

WHO advises healthy people against wearing masks just as a means of prevention. It insists that a disposable mask can only be used once and is not very effective against the virus as your eyes are still exposed to the virus, also if you do not observe hand hygiene it defeats the purpose of using a mask. 

There is a world-wide shortage of masks, on the other hand, for healthcare workers, volunteers and those who need to continue working in virus hotspots as they are responsible for ensuring essential public services.

What mask to wear for coronavirus?

Disposable surgical masks can prevent sick people from spreading their virus through spit and droplets and making other people sick, but these should not be reused or worn at a stretch beyond 8 hours.

N95 disposable respirator mask can protect healthcare workers from germs by blocking out at least 95 percent of small airborne particles.

What to do if you are tested positive for coronavirus?

For those who have no relevant travel or contact history

If you are experiencing respiratory illness symptoms like cough, congestion, sore throat, fever and you have not recently traveled to an area with widespread outbreak, and you have not had close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or someone with a travel history to these regions, at this time the best guidance is to stay home, get plenty of rest, drink fluids and call up your physician to know if you should get a test done.

Source - Firstpost