The newly detected Coronavirus (2019 nCoV) has garnered enough attention from people across the world. What started in Wuhan, a Chinese province has now spread to more than 13 countries. With the number of confirmed cases rising by the day, the Indian Health Ministry is preparing hospitals and laboratories to take necessary measures. 

As of Jan 28 2020, three cases of Coronavirus were suspected in New Delhi and over 100 people have been kept under observation in hospitals across India. It thus becomes imperative for households and corporations to be aware of Coronavirus infection, its symptoms and preventive measures. 

Here are a few quick FAQs about the outbreak:

1. What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause problems ranging from the common cold to severe conditions like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). They are crown-shaped viruses that infect both animals and humans and normally spread in the same manner as other cold and cough-causing viruses spread. 

2. Where and how did the Novel Coronavirus outbreak start?

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) China office reported an unknown virus that resulted in a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China.

As of Jan 28 2020, about 130 people have been reported dead and more than 6000 cases of the infection have been confirmed worldwide.

The virus seems to have originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, China where wild animals were traded illegally. Coronaviruses usually infect both animals and humans. It is thought that the first people to get infected with the Novel Coronavirus happened when humans contracted it from their contact with the animals. This new virus’s genetic make-up is most likely to have been found in bats.

3. How is China and other countries responding to this attack?

The Coronavirus infection is declared as a ‘health emergency’ in China by WHO. The city of Wuhan is under a complete lockdown with travel bans extended to neighbouring cities and provinces in China. The Chinese government has also temporarily banned the sale of wildlife in markets and restaurants.

Tons of countries across the globe like Malaysia, UK, USA and India are thoroughly screening air travellers flying in from China. The Indian Embassy in Beijing is helping Indian medical students evacuate on permission from the Chinese government. 

Additionally, the Health Ministry in India has instructed authorities at seven major airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin to screen all travellers coming from China. 

4. What are the early signs of Coronavirus infection?

Early signs of coronavirus infection include:

  • Fever
  • Running nose, cough and sore throat
  • Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
  • Pneumonia and kidney failure, in most severe cases

5. What preventive measures have to be taken to avoid catching an infection?

Currently, there are no particular vaccines or antiviral drugs for the treatment of human coronaviruses. Preventive measures for this infection can be viewed in 2 different ways:

a) Prevention measures for people suspected, getting evaluated or confirmed to avoid spreading the infection to healthy individuals:

  • Stay indoors in a separate room & use a separate bathroom, if possible. 
  • Infected people must not get out & use public transportation, taxis or go to school, work or other public areas.
  • Wearing a face mask while stepping out will help curb the spread of infection.
  • Covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing with a tissue and immediately throwing the tissue in the trash is important.
  • Sharing household items like utensils, drinking cups, towels and bedding must be avoided as much as possible. 

b) Preventive measures for caregivers and family members:

  • Make sure there is enough airflow in the shared rooms/ areas of the house.
  • Wash utensils, dishes, laundry thoroughly and separately from those of the infected individual’s items.
  • Use disposable gloves, face masks or gowns while serving/ being with an infected person to keep the infection from spreading.

Other general preventive measures

Wash hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds

Keep 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

6. Will cooking meat or eggs thoroughly kill the Coronavirus in animals, if any?

Cooking meat or an infected animal at about 150 degrees Fahrenheit will inactivate the Coronavirus. Note that any method of cooking will work. The mode of transmission of heat does not matter as long as the animal is cooked thoroughly. 

7. Does wearing a face mask really prevent the spread of infection?

Face masks are a preventive measure and not a sure-shot way to keep away from catching an infection. When you wear a face mask, especially in public areas, there is some protection for your mouth and nose from directly coming in contact with infected air particles or droplets.

Know that the World Health Organisation in its latest report mentioned that ‘Coronavirus is still not a global health emergency’. Taking the right precautions will lower the risk of catching an infection. However, if you or your dear ones are down with cold or cough and it lasts for more than 4-5 days, it is best to consult a doctor immediately.