A small 60 – 140 nm virus has affected 70% of world countries and brought the world to a grinding halt. Let’s discuss a few common queries everyone should be aware of this easily contagious infection. This infection is estimated to infect the whole human race, eventually.
1) What do we know about COVID – 19?
COVID – 19, virus comes from coronavirus family. Yes, it is from the same family of virus which causes deadly diseases like MERS, SARS. This virus like all virus needs a host cell to live on and replicate. So, the virus alone cannot survive outside for very long, especially in higher temperature (>25*). But in temperature 22 – 25*c with humidity 50% (like in AC’s)it is shown to survive for 5 days. This typically affects the respiratory tracts in humans and spread through droplet from sneezing, cough etc.
2) What does virus do to us?
Once someone get infected, most of the patients get high grade fever (98%), cough (70%), shortness of breath, body pains, diarrhoea in a few. These symptoms come 2 – 11 days after exposure. Most of these patients would recover after their bodies develop defence mechanism against their virus. In few patients (10%) in whom the defence mechanism is not strong (immune compromised, older age, diabetics). they land up life threatening severe pneumonia (ARDS).
3) How do we know if we are infected?
In India, we still are not in a stage of community spread, thus only the people who have travelled to the effected countries or people who are exposed to such persons and having fever, cough, or shortness of breath need to go for testing in government designated centers. A throat swab or respiratory secretions or blood sample may be sent for PCR ( polymerase chain reaction) testing.
4) What to do now?
“PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE “
The best way as of now in India is to prevent ourselves from getting infected. The government proposed social distancing, frequent hand wash, hygiene while sneezing or coughing, community lock down are all for the same reason.
These will not only protect us but also help in preventing transmission in the community. Soap, alcohol (70%), chlorine based solutions have shown to kill the virus. These are easily available and can be used at home regularly. As the virus is killed at temperature >70*c avoid eating raw animal products.
5) What treatments are available?
To prevent the infection worldwide governments and laboratory are working on developing vaccines. Few of them are already on clinical trials, but, as we all know, developing and mass producing vaccines take a long time. Realistically we can expect it only end of this year.
There are no specific drugs which can kill the virus but few of medicines which are used to treat HIV and MALARIA are being tried, with varied success. Presently these patients are treated only symptomatically hoping their immunity will fight virus.
For high risk healthcare workers, government has approved usage of HYDROXY CHLOROQUINE which is used to treat malaria as a medicine to prevent the infection. This drug has its own side effect and its ability to prevent such infection is not proved, it is more of a desperate measure.
(Disclaimer: The writer is Dr Kishore Reddy, Medical Director, Omni Hospital, Kukatpally. Views expressed are a personal opinion)