Coronavirus: Symptoms, precautions and safety measures
In December 2019, China reported multiple cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million people in the central Hubei province. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported the virus was previously unknown; it seemed that most of the infected worked at the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. By January 7, Chinese officials and WHO announced the identification of the virus which seemed to be a part of the family of coronavirus, which include the SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the common cold. This new strain of virus was named 2019-nCoV; the novel virus has since then spread faster and further- more than 4,474 people are known to be infected and at least 107 deaths have been recorded.
Most of the severe cases have been reported in Mainland China, although US, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan have confirmed cases too. Wuhan and 18 other cities in China are currently under quarantine, with air and railway services suspended. As of yet, WHO has not declared a global health crisis which would see emergency measures put in place; the organisation said it was “too early” to do so, as per the Telegraph.
The new virus has allegedly made its way into India, with suspected cases in Hyderabad and Delhi, although they have not been confirmed. The WHO and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released information regarding the symptoms to look out for and precautions to be taken by the general public in the wake of this deadly disease.
According to CDC, there are three main symptoms of the novel virus are very similar to those of the common cold-
1. Fever, and fatigue
3. Shortness of breath
These symptoms may later progress to pneumonia, and in more severe cases, infection can cause severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. According to CDC, previous observation of the incubation period of the MERS virus (Middle East respiratory syndrome, another form of coronavirus) states that the symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. CDC also reported some grave news- that while some people with the virus show “little to no symptoms,” others fall “severely ill” and die, the virus differs from person to person. China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei also stated that since the virus does not respond to antibiotics and can be spread further due to delay in symptoms, it is a deadly infection.
According to the WHO, the general public should not jump to conclusions since the symptoms of the virus and common cold are similar. They recommend hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices as precautions and safety measures:
1. Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
2. When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands.
3. Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough;
4. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health-care provider.
5. When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.
6. The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
7. Limit all travel to areas with confirmed cases of the deadly disease, unless essential.