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Coronavirus

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About The Coronavirus Pandemic

Dr. Pragnya Rao

All you need to know about this global pandemic.

What is the 2019 novel coronavirus or COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. COVID-19, is a new coronavirus detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.  The virus was first identified in Wuhan province, China, the origin of which has been speculated to be zoonotic (reservoir being bats), meaning it can be transmitted from live animals to humans. The novel coronavirus (nCoV) has not been previously identified in humans and can cause a multitude of illnesses ranging from the common cold to acute respiratory illness, kidney failure and even death. The rapid spread of the virus has led to the outbreak being declared as a global pandemic.

How dangerous is coronavirus?

The mortality rate of coronavirus ranges between 2-3%. This means if a 100 people contract the infection, then only in 3 cases it may lead to fatality. The elderly with pre-existing illnesses like heart diseases, diabetes and lung diseases are more vulnerable. 

How does one get tested for coronavirus infection?

About 15+ labs have been established for coronavirus testing all across the country. Blood tests, throat and anal swab tests, sputum tests, nasal aspirate and tracheal aspirate examination are conducted in order to detect the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms include fever, tiredness, runny nose, sore throat and dry cough. Some patients also have muscle pains, vomiting or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin slowly

If you have fever, cough, sore throat, breathing difficulty with a travel history or suspected contact with someone who might have the infection, it is important that you reach out to a helpline number so you can receive guidance regarding further steps. It is best not to make unannounced visits to a hospital without prior information of your history.

How does it spread?

Coronavirus infection can be contracted via small droplets of bodily fluids such as saliva or mucus from the nose or mouth which is spread when the infected person exhales, sneezes or coughs. An infected person can manifest symptoms between 2-14 days from the time of exposure to COVID-19, while viral shedding through droplets of mucus and saliva is high during the ongoing infection and can continue for up to 10 days after recovery. 

Can it spread from a person who has no symptoms?

The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, the early stages of the disease have only mild symptoms, so in some cases it is possible. WHO has ongoing research on the period of transmission and will share updated findings.

Will I die if I get coronavirus?

No. Almost 80% of cases had mild symptoms. The death rate below age 50 years is less, where most deaths have been caused in patients with associated pre-existing medical conditions. 

Will coronavirus affect pets?

No, there is no evidence that COVID- 19 affects pets.

Are children, pregnant and old people at more risk?

It has been noticed that elderly people are at higher risk, but there is no evidence that mortality is more in children. Younger patients have been noticed to have mild or no symptoms at all. Pregnant and immunocompromised patients are at potential risk. However, the higher the age, the higher the risk. Mortality above 80 yrs age is the highest.

Is there a cure?

There is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat Coronavirus. However, symptomatic treatment and supportive care are available. It is advised to take preventive measures like maintaining hand hygiene, keeping a distance from people sneezing or coughing, avoiding social interactions or public hangouts, avoid travelling overseas or to any potentially infected places, keep clothes clean and exposed to sun rays etc. It is also advised to consult a doctor without delay in case one faces breathing issues or cold/flu/fever persists, for early detection and treatment

Can the coronavirus be killed?

There are many running myths that say coronavirus can be killed by certain products. It has been said that the virus can be killed by hand-dryers, UV lamps, alcohol, sesame oil and herbal remedies like garlic or clove. WHO has advised that these myths are baseless, and the virus cannot be killed either way. There is no vaccine or specific antiviral medicine as of now to prevent or treat COVID-19, but research is underway.

What precautions and preventive measures should I adopt?

Practice hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene adequately. Avoid smoking, wash hands regularly and always wear a mask if you have a cough or are feeling sick. Be mindful of your surroundings, avoid shaking hands and keep one metre’s distance from anybody who has cough, fever or breathing difficulty, but politely.

Can masks help in preventing the infection?

Not everyone needs to wear a mask. If you are a healthcare provider, or if you are caring for an infected person, or if you are sick or having symptoms, or if you are going to be amongst a large crowd, you need to wear a mask to contain and prevent the spread of droplets. Do not hoard masks as they are not foolproof methods to avoid catching the infection. Remove the mask from the back of the head instead of touching it while disposing. 

Can thermal scanners help in detecting the coronavirus infection?

Yes. Thermal scanners are effective in detecting coronavirus infection. It can detect people who have a fever or high temperature due to the new coronavirus infection. But the downside is that it cannot detect infected people who are not yet sick with a fever. The reason is that newly infected people take at least 2-10 days to develop a fever.

Why have some people died from the coronavirus infection?

Most people recover from the coronavirus infection. However, most people whose deaths were caused due to the coronavirus infection had pre-existing diseases and comorbidities or had a weak immune system or simply worse overall health. Therefore, the risk of coronavirus being fatal depends on the strength or weakness of your immunity and respiratory system.

What is quarantine?

Quarantine is a measure taken to isolate a sick or infected person or someone suspected of having caught an infection when there is an outbreak of contagious, communicable diseases. This is done to contain the spread of the infection. The novel coronavirus or COVID-19 infection, having originated in Wuhan Province of China, has now propagated its way into 80+ countries. Positive cases are springing up every day in different parts of the world. The virus is transmitted via droplets of mucus or saliva of an infected person when he or she coughs or sneezes. Due to its easy transmission route, the virus, as well as the panic surrounding it, has currently penetrated the very fabric of scrutiny and vigilance of various countries. Quarantine and the process of isolation are key in handling the spread of the infection, thereby reducing the mortality rate caused due to the coronavirus.

Who needs a hospital quarantine?

  • A person tested positive with coronavirus with unmanageable symptoms at home like fever, cough and breathing difficulty that might need further evaluation and treatment at a hospital
  • A person belonging to the older age group, especially over 60 years of age and having tested positive with symptoms. It has been noted that this is a high-risk group
  • A person who has tested positive and has pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, TB, or has chronic comorbidities

When should I self-quarantine?

If you have had a recent history of travel to an area with an outbreak or have been exposed to someone suspected of having the infection and you have developed symptoms such as fever or cough. If you have recently travelled from another country and screening has been done, you might be directed by the Embassy to put yourself on semi-voluntary quarantine at home. If you have already returned from the hospital after recovering from the coronavirus infection and testing negative, you may be put on self-quarantine as a precautionary measure. 

When to advance from self-quarantine to hospital isolation? 

If you are sick and you notice your symptoms worsening with shortness of breath or if you notice any of your family members showing signs of the sickness, then it is important to reach out to a hospital or helpline numbers so that you can be placed in an isolation ward until recovery. (Helpline number for coronavirus information and medical help in India: +91-11-239780460)

How do you gear up for self-quarantine? 

Preparation for self-quarantine in your house involves appropriate stocking up (and not hoarding) of supplies- essentials being health and hygiene products such as adequate prescription medicines, health records, tissues, personal protective equipment, sanitizers, soaps, disinfectants for surfaces, etc. Food supplies such as canned goods, water cans can come in handy. Isolation may not be easy, so even comfort food like chocolates can be of help if you do not have symptoms.

How can you take care of your mental health during self-quarantine? 

Physical isolation can be strenuous and distressing. You might be prone to anxiety during this time, as you may feel more disconnected from the world around you. While you can continue maintaining hand and respiratory hygiene, keep a watch on how you are feeling, talk often with friends or mental health professionals.

What is the new travel advisory with respect to India?

  • In accordance with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, all existing visas issued to foreign nationals except those issued to diplomats/officials, International organizations, Employment and project visas have been suspended between March 13 and April 15. Although existing visas of foreign nationals already in India are still valid, India has closed doors on all foreign nationals until the situation dies down, except for compelling or compassionate cases. 
  • India has also directed that its citizens avoid all non-essential travel to countries that have been affected by the outbreak. Offices have been asked to not send their employees or international visits currently, to prevent unnecessary acquired infections.
  • All nationals returning from China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany on or after February 15 are required to be subjected to semi-voluntary quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days to facilitate containment of any suspected infection.
  • Domestic travel inside India has no special restrictions as of now. As cases are foreseen to rise, it is important to be vigilant and informed about the situation in India so you can assess your risks and plan accordingly.

What measures are being taken by airline companies and airports?

  • Most positive cases in India are directly linked to travel outside the country. Currently, all airports are on high alert, rigorous screening measures including temperature checks and full body thermal scanners have been deployed to identify any suspected cases. It is important to be responsible and not skip any additional regulations placed by airport authorities.
  • About 585 International flights between India and COVID-19 affected countries have been cancelled between February 1 and March 6. 
  • Any individuals returning from outbreak areas are being directed by the Embassy to observe immediate self-quarantine. Simultaneously, passengers and cabin crew who have come in contact or were seated around a positive tested individual are also being put through observation with periodic testing. 

How is the coronavirus outbreak affecting the globe?

  • The airline business has taken the hardest hit amidst the coronavirus outbreak, and the future of further monetary loss is looking at the abyss. 
  • Economy and stock markets are tanking while investments are yielding to the pressure. It has been reported that investors have lost over 11 trillion rupees amidst the global economy shutdown.
  • Individuals and tourists are cancelling and rescheduling their travel plans, decisions that can be proactive in the prevention of COVID-19 spread.

What if you have to travel by air and you have no choice?

It is best to avoid travel outside the country, especially to countries where outbreaks have been registered, unless it is essential. In case you are amidst unavoidable circumstances, some precautions can come in handy. 

  • Your travel may be domestic or international, but it is important that you comply with any additional screening procedures at the airport. It makes tracking of cases, if found, easier. 
  • Practice hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene adequately. Avoid smoking, wash hands regularly and always wear a mask if you have a cough or are feeling sick. Be mindful of your surroundings, avoid shaking hands and keep one metre’s distance from anybody who has cough, fever or breathing difficulty, but politely.
  • Protect yourself and your near and dear ones first, and in case you suspect that you may have the infection, please make sure you postpone any social interactions and gatherings. Impose a self-quarantine for the safety of others, and contact the helpline number that has been set up for various states across the country (Central line for more information: +91-11-23978046). It is best not to make unannounced visits to a hospital without prior information of your history.
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