COVID-19 Disease - Precaution, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, with single stranded RNA genome, named for the crown-like spikes present on their surface. In humans, so far, several Coronaviruses have been reported to cause respiratory infections ranging from the mild common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus. The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. You can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact (1 meter or 3 feet) with people who are unwell. The virus that causes COVID-19 Pandemic, is a novel Coronavirus (nCoV) strain, that was first identified and reported during an investigation of an outbreak in Wuhan, China, on December 31st, 2019. COVID-19 causes respiratory illness that can spread from person to person and is notorious for mutating quickly and acquiring new qualities.

Frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Please note that most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.  However, people with below underlying conditions are more likely to develop serious illness:

  • Older people,
  • Immunocompromised individuals
  • People with cardiovascular diseases
  • Diabetics
  • People with chronic respiratory disorders
  • Patients with Malignancies

As per WHO, the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days.

So far, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Tiredness
  • Breathlessness

Though, some patients may also experience body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. Chest X-rays show invasive pneumonic infiltrates in both lungs. However, all these symptoms are also common for other respiratory infections. So, in case of COVID-19, travel history to affected geographical area is a most important criteria in diagnosis.

These symptoms are usually mild and develop gradually. Some infected people can be asymptomatic (don't feel sick). Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without requiring special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops breathlessness (difficulty breathing).

Note: People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek immediate medical attention, while following all advised measures to avoid spread of infections to others.

How does COVID-19 spread?

It is very important to understand COVID-19 transmission in order to protect yourselves and others.

The disease can spread from one person to another person through small droplets released from nose or mouth when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around that infected person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these contaminated objects or surfaces, then touching their face (eyes, nose or mouth). People can also catch COVID-19 if they inhale the droplets exhaled from a person with COVID-19.

Diagnosis

Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is critical for tracking the virus, understanding epidemiology, informing case management, suppressing transmission and for containing the infection.

The virus can be detected using Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR test (Recommended by WHO), which can quickly tell if someone harbours the virus (4 to 6 hours).

2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panels

It is a real-time RT-PCR test intended for the qualitative detection of nucleic acid from the 2019-nCoV in upper and lower respiratory specimens.

Recommended samples:

  • Nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swabs
  • Sputum
  • Lower respiratory tract aspirates
  • Bronchoalveolar lavage
  • Nasopharyngeal wash/aspirate or nasal aspirate

Samples must be collected and tested from individuals who meet 2019-nCoV clinical and/or epidemiological criteria, listed below:

  • Clinical signs and symptoms associated with 2019-nCoV infection,
  • Contact with a probable or confirmed 2019-nCoV case,
  • History of travel to geographic locations where 2019-nCoV cases were detected, or other epidemiologic links for which 2019-nCoV testing may be indicated

Prevention

The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads.

Follow the below listed instructions, to contain the infection:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing
  • Say Namaste to avoid hand contact
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow or in tissue paper; discard the used tissue paper in a dustbin with a lid
  • Stay home if you feel unwell
  • Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs
  • Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people

Treatment

No treatment yet. Yes, to date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019.

However, those affected should receive supportive care to provide symptomatic relief. People with serious illness should be hospitalized.

Note: WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19.

Important Links

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
https://www.mohfw.gov.in/
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf

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