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15 Aug 2020, Edition - 1859, Saturday

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Health Matters

All that you want to know about Coronavirus

Hari Balaji VR

Introduction

A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous.Some types of them are serious, though. About 858 people have died from Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which first appeared in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and then in other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. In April 2014, the first American was hospitalised for MERS in Indiana and another case was reported in Florida. Both had just returned from Saudi Arabia. In May 2015, there was an outbreak of MERS in Korea, which was the largest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2003, 774 people died from a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. As of 2015, there were no further reports of cases of SARS. MERS and SARS are types of coronaviruses.

What Is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses were first identified in the 1960s, but we don’t know where they come from. They get their name from their crown-like shape. Sometimes, but not often, a coronavirus can infect both animals and humans.Most coronaviruses spread the same way other cold-causing viruses do: through infected people coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person’s hands or face, or by touching things such as doorknobs that infected people have touched.

Common symptoms of Coronavirus:

The symptoms of most coronaviruses are similar to any other upper respiratory infection, including runny nose, coughing, sore throat, and sometimes a fever. In most cases, you won’t know whether you have a coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus, such as rhinovirus. You could get lab tests, including nose and throat cultures and blood work, to find out whether your cold was caused by a coronavirus, but there’s no reason to. The test results wouldn’t change how you treat your symptoms, which typically go away in a few days. But if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract (your windpipe and your lungs), it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease, or people with weakened immune systems.

What to do about coronavirus?

There is no vaccine for coronavirus.
To help prevent a coronavirus infection, do the same things you do to avoid the common cold:
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Avoid close contact with people who are infected.

Is travel to China safe?
Wuhan is closed to travellers.

The CDC advises travellers to China to:
Avoid contact with sick people.
Avoid animals, animal markets, and products that come from animals.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitiser if that’s not available.
Seek medical care right away if you have a fever, cough, or a hard time breathing. Tell your health care professional about your travel.

What are the symptoms, and how is the virus diagnosed?

China created a test for the virus and shared that information with other countries. The CDC has developed its own test.

Symptoms include a fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. They may appear 2 to 14 days after you’re exposed to the virus.

What is the source of the virus, and how is it spread?

Health officials are not sure of the source of the virus yet or how easily it can spread. Coronaviruses are found in many different animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. One research paper also suggested snakes as a possible source. The new virus may be linked to a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan that has since been closed. The virus can spread from person to person. Health officials are seeing this happen most often where people are close together and in health care settings. To date, 16 health care workers have been infected.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) believes that severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), two other types of coronavirus, are spread through droplets when someone coughs or sneezes.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for the virus. Patients are generally given supportive care for their symptoms, such a fluids and pain relievers. Hospitalised patients may need support with breathing.

Reference: World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention


(The author is Disaster Management Consultant)

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