Coronavirus, a family of viruses causing problems ranging from the common cold to severe conditions like acute respiratory syndrome, that first appeared in 2012 in the Middle East countries and in Europe, has now made a comeback!
In early January 2020, a new type of Coronavirus (2019 nCoV) was identified in China. With more than 3.7 million confirmed cases across the world, the COVID-19 infection has affected more than 200 countries.
The rapidly spreading outbreak has instilled a wave of fear and panic at a global level. It is important that along with governments and medical institutions, we understand how these viruses work or attack and be aware of its common symptoms, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Coronavirus and Common Symptoms
Coronavirus is a crown-shaped virus that can infect both animals and humans. It is typically & relatively a large virus with 125 nanometers of surface area of spike projections. Although it is too big to travel more than a few feet quickly or stay suspended in the air for a long time, it normally spreads in the same way as other cold-causing viruses do. The virus can spread easily by direct physical contact between an infected person and a healthy person, for example through close contact with oral secretions.
Apart from direct physical contact, the virus can also spread by indirect contact - through the touch of an infected individual’s hands or face, through touching objects such as doorknobs & smartphones or by sharing towels/ napkins of infected people.
Most often, the symptoms of coronaviruses are confused with the symptoms of other respiratory infections due to many similarities. According to WHO, three common signs of coronavirus infections include:
- Dry cough
In April 2020, the CDC (Centre for Diseases Control) in the US has recently added 6 new symptoms of COVID-19:
- Sore throat
- Repeated shivering
- Muscle pain
- New loss of taste or smell
One has to get lab tests done, especially nose and throat cultures and blood tests to find out whether the cold infection is caused by coronavirus or by any other virus. The test results will however not affect the way one treats the symptoms of coronavirus, which typically goes off in a few days.
Treatment and Prevention
The following preventive measures can be taken to reduce the risk of catching an infection:
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
- Use a 70% alcohol-based hand-sanitiser if you do not have access to soap and water
- Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Cook meat and eggs thoroughly before eating
- Wear a facemask whenever you are stepping out
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and immediately throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands
Presently, there are no particular vaccines or antiviral drugs for the treatment of human coronaviruses. One must consult a doctor if their cold and cough infection lasts for more than 4-5 days.
- Take pain and fever medications after consulting a doctor only
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids like broths/ soups
- Use a humidifier in your hall or bedroom and take hot showers to ease a sore throat
- Make sure the room is well ventilated and there is good airflow in the room where the infected person is resting
- Family members and caregivers must wear disposal masks and gloves while they are in the same room along with the infected individual to avoid catching an infection themselves.