What is coronavirus?
In December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases in China were found to have been caused by a previously unknown virus, which has now been named the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses. There are different types of coronaviruses – some cause respiratory disease and others cause gastrointestinal disease. Most coronaviruses generally cause a mild disease. Some, however, can cause severe disease. Two main coronaviruses that can cause really severe disease are:
- SARS-CoV – which caused the SARS outbreak in China & South East Asia in 2003
- MERS-CoV – which caused the MERS outbreak in the Middle East in 2012
The new coronavirus has spread rapidly from China to other countries. India has detected 3 confirmed cases of coronavirus infected people, all in the state of Kerala.
As of Feb 3rd, 17391 people have been infected globally across 24 countries with 362 deaths (361 deaths in China and 1 death in the Philippines.
How does this virus spread?
The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads mostly through contact with an infected person. The spread happens via respiratory droplets generated when a person, for example, coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
For confirmed 2019-nCoV infections, illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include:
- Body ache
- Shortness of breath
While almost all present with these symptoms, a few people progress to having severe pneumonia. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as, diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
How can I protect myself from coronavirus infection?
According to the WHO, adopting the following practices should offer a degree of protection
- Wash your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water – this can kill the virus if it is on your hands.
- Follow these 5 steps every time to properly wash your hands
- Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Make sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for atleast 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
- When you can’t use soap and water, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Maintain social distancing – maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth – Hands touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Tell your doctor if you have travelled in an area in China where 2019-nCoV has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has travelled from China and has respiratory symptoms.
- If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China, and no history of contact with anyone who has travelled to China, carefully practice basic hygiene and stay home until you are recovered, if possible.