As the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the world, medical experts are trying to increase awareness on how to tackle the deadly disease that has claimed over 4,000 lives. The virus has infected over one lakh people in more than 100 countries. The COVID-19 pathogen is believed to have originated in a market that sold wild animals China's Wuhan. Governments across the world have ramped up precautions against the disease and have issued travel bans and advisories.
Awareness about the highly contagious disease is extremely important in this crucial time. There are a number of frequently asked questions about the virus and steps to avoid contracting it. We shall discuss some of them and also debunk common misconceptions.
Q. What is the novel coronavirus?
A. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. The novel coronavirus or COVID-19 is a new strain earlier not recognised in humans. The virus can be transmitted between humans and animals.
Q. What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
A. Common signs of COVID-19 infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Q. How does coronavirus spread?
A. The infection can be spread from people who have the virus. The disease can spread from droplets of the nose or mouth and are spread when an infected person coughs or exhales. When the droplets come in contact with others and they touch their mouth or eyes or nose, the infection spreads.
People can also catch the virus if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs or exhales droplets. World Health Organisation says studies suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.
Q. What to do to prevent getting infected with coronavirus?
A. There are a few safety and hygiene steps to follow to avoid getting infected.
- Regularly wash hands thoroughly with alcohol-based hand rub or wash with soap and water. Wash hands before and after meals and at regular intervals to get rid of viruses.
- Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing to avoid contracting droplets from anyone infected.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth without washing.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If you used a tissue, dispose of tissue immediately.
Q. How can you detect coronavirus?
A. The incubation period ranges from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. After early symptoms appear, there are three rounds of tests that need to be done to confirm if someone is infected. They are then kept in isolation.
Q. What is the cure for coronavirus?
A. There are no vaccines and no specific medicines to prevent or treat coronavirus. However, hospitalisation and care is very important for recovery. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials.
All countries are taking preventive measures to control the disease and working closely with health experts to contain it. As research continues on the disease, it is advisable to not panic and not pay heed to rumours about the virus.
Q. How much time does it take to recover from coronavirus?
A. Most people who are infected will recover. Recovery time varies from person to person depending on the severity of the disease. People with mild symptoms may recover within a few days. People who have pneumonia may take longer to recover (days to weeks). In cases of severe, life-threatening illness, it may take months for a person to recover.
Q. I have the symptoms for coronavirus. What do I do now?
A. Call a doctor for check-up immediately; it is highly likely that you will be quarantined. Stay indoors as much as possible untill the test results are back. Avoid public areas and public transport and maintain distance from other people. Use a separate bathroom, if possible. Limit contact with pets and animals. Wear a face mask and cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing. Dispose used tissues carefully and clean hands often. Do not share utensils or clothes and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched regularly.
What are the common misconceptions about coronavirus?
Q. Does coronavirus spread through air?
A. No. One of the common misconceptions of coronavirus infection is that it can spread through the air. However, it is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets.
Q. Can coronavirus spread through faeces?
A. The risk of catching COVID-19 from the faeces of an infected person appears to be low. While initial investigations suggest the virus may be present in faeces in some cases, spread through this route is not a main feature of the outbreak.
Q. Are face masks the best precaution against coronavirus?
A. People with no respiratory symptoms, such as cough, do not need to wear a medical mask. People with symptoms should wear a mask as a preventive measure. Not all masks help in prevention of the spread of virus. There are some masks that would work which also need proper training to put on. Ensure the mask is clean, unused, has no holes and clean your hands before putting it on. Discard the mask after use and wash hands again.
Q. Can coronavirus spread through animal sources?
A. Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed. However, for protection, while visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Ensure good food safety practices at all times. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.
Q. Can coronavirus spread through pets?
A. There is no evidence that pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus that causes COVID-19.
Q. Can antibiotics cure coronavirus infection?
A. No, antibiotics do not work against viruses and only work on bacterial infections