July-20 Cover story

Coronavirus: What you should know


The world today is in the grip of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which started at the end of December 2019 in Wuhan, China. Number of infected people is rising everywhere including in India. Considering that COVID-19 is going to be around in the recent future at the very least, it is important to have information on it and be aware about what to expect and how to best protect yourself.


Symptoms of coronavirus

SARS-CoV-2 is the official name of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are

  • Fever
  • Breathlessness
  • Cough

Other symptoms included by the Ministry of Health, GoI include

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Mucous formation in throat
  • Clogged nasal cavity
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of taste (anosmia)
  • Loss of smell (ageusia)

Symptoms may appear in 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. The period of infectivity starts 2 days prior to onset of symptoms and lasts up to 8 days.  Some infected people do not have symptoms i.e. they are asymptomatic. Some people have mild symptoms and get better on their own.  About 1 in 6 have severe problems, such as trouble breathing. People above 60 and those having diseases including diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, chronic lung disease, cerebro-vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, immune-suppression and cancer are among the high-risk category.


How to protect yourself from coronavirus
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time. Or clean them with alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wear a face mask covering your nose and mouth when going out.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from any other person.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel and stay away from large groups of people.
  • Work from home if you can.
  • Buy you groceries, medicines etc. online if possible.
  • Keep your pets away from people and animals outside your home.
  • Clean frequently touched objects and surfaces with a disinfectant cleaning spray or wipe.


Do face masks reduce risk of infection

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, masks can be used for protection of healthy persons (worn to protect oneself when in contact with an infected individual) or for source control (worn by an infected individual to prevent onward transmission). They suggest that everyone should wear fabric masks (non-medical) in public.

[ Read our article Know all about face masks for detailed information]


Diagnosis of coronavirus

If you think you have COVID-19, contact your doctor or go to a hospital. They will prescribe a confirmatory test if they agree that you may have coronavirus, and contact your state and local health departments. Further treatment will be given based on the seriousness of the case. In very mild/mild cases home or institutional quarantine may be prescribed.


How does coronavirus spread?

The virus spreads mainly from person to person. This can happen in several ways-

  • Droplets: When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, droplets with the virus fly into the air from their nose or mouth and anyone within 6 feet can breathe in those droplets.
  • Aerosolizedtransmission: The virus can live in the air for up to 3 hours. When you breathe air that has the virus floating in it, it gets into your lungs.
  • Surface transmission: You may catch coronavirus when you touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on and then touch your nose or mouth.
  • Community spread is when someone gets the virus without any known contact with a sick person.

Pets and COVID-19

A few pets have tested positive for the new coronavirus, but not all of them had signs of illness. Some have had mild symptoms. They may have caught the virus from close contact with infected humans, but there is no evidence that pets play a role in its spread.


How long does it live on surfaces

A study found that this virus can last up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 2 to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel. It may be possible to transmit the infection by touching a contaminated surface. Using a simple disinfectant on all reachable surfaces is a good idea.


Can I get coronavirus from delivery food, packages or groceries?

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll catch COVID-19 from packages, groceries, or food. When using a delivery service, have them leave groceries, food, or packages outside your front door if you can. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after bringing things inside your home. Wipe down plastic, metal, or glass packaging with soap and water. Then clean and disinfect countertops and anything else you or your bags and packages may have touched.


How to clean your groceries, medicines and delivery items

Whether you shop for groceries and other needs yourself or get them delivered, these still have to be handled and cleaned properly before using /storing to eliminate the risk of Coronavirus infection.

Vegetables and fruits
  • Do not place vegetables brought from outside, straight on the kitchen counter.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables under running water without soap, bleach or commercial produce washes.
  • Dry produce with a paper towel or clean cloth towel.
  • Non-perishable items can be kept in a separate storage area for 24-72 hours.

Milk packets: Wash with warm water and soap to clean these. Avoid placing unwashed packets in the refrigerator or pouring the milk from them into a vessel.

Eggs: Rinsing thoroughly with water is the best way to clean eggs.

Packets and cardboard boxes: These can be wiped down with alcohol-based wipes.

Packed food

  • Empty contents in a container or storage box e.g. bread can be put in a bread box.
  • Pulses and other such items can be transferred to containers, after the packet has been wiped clean with soap and water.
  • Dispose all packets in the dustbin safely.

Medicine strips: Keep them aside for a few hours before opening or consuming.

Currency notes: If you use currency, make sure you wash your hands or sanitise them immediately afterwards.

General tips: Dampen a cloth with hot water and any common all-purpose cleaning solution, to clean up door knobs, countertops, switchboards and other such surfaces. For electronic items including mobile phones, remotes, keyboards, the TV surface, microwave ovens, use an alcohol-based solution.


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Tips to travel safely

In addition to essential care taken to prevent infection, follow these tips when traveling:

  • Don’t touch anything you don’t have to.
  • Use a paper towel to open doors or push them open with your elbow or shoulder.
  • On the plane, use disinfecting wipes to clean the arm rest, tray, vent above your head, the media screen and anything else your hands may come in contact with.
  • At the hotel, sanitize anything that is likely to have been touched the TV remote, cabinet and bathroom surfaces, the hotel room phone, tables, light switches etc.



Is there a vaccine for COVID-19

Not yet. But research by many universities and drug companies is ongoing. Several experimental coronavirus vaccines developed by Moderna Inc, China’s Sinovac Biotech and UK’s Oxford-AstraZeneca are reportedly set to enter late-stage trials in July.


Treatment for coronavirus

Treating symptoms is recommended as no drug treatment is available yet. Antibiotics are not effective against it.  It is advised to take medicine for pain and fever on doctor’s prescription, get rest, and drink plenty of water. People with more serious cases need to be in the hospital, where they can get breathing and other support, if needed.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has now (on 13 June) said that anti-viral drug Remdisivir (under trial in other countries) can be used in emergencies in patients with moderate disease (those on oxygen) except in those with renal complication, pregnant and lactating women and children under 12. Convalescent plasma has been allowed in patients with moderate disease who are not improving despite use of steroids.

MoHWF has also said that Tocilizumab medicine can be considered in patients with moderate disease with progressively increasing oxygen requirements and in mechanically ventilated patients not improving despite use of steroids. This medicine should not be given to people with TB.


Working from home

With economies opening up after COVID related lockdowns, offices have opened but many still continue to promote working from home, wherever feasible, to protect employees. The guidelines from MoHFW continue to advise that persons above 65 years of age, those with comorbidities, and pregnant women should stay at home, except for essential and health purposes.



Sources: www.webmd.com, www.mygov.in, www.voiceofgujarat.in, www.blogs.webmd.com/, www.who.int/, www.mohfw.gov.in/, www.indianexpress.com/, www.fda.gov/, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/, www.thehindu.com/, www.housing.com/

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