Coronavirus, which originated at Wuhan, China, emerged as a serious concern to public health. In the middle of rumours, myths and panic, Dr. Raja Dhar, Director of the Department of Pulmonology at Fortis Anandapur urges people to not be perturbed. The concern about COVID-19 is justified. However, the death rate from COVID-19 is much lower than other viruses that have caused epidemic in the past. With SARS the death rate was 7 to 12%. Whereas with COVID-19 the death rate is 2 to 3%. The initial strain of corona that started in Wuhan was very high. The virulence of the virus seems to have come down from that point of time.
Speaking about the symptoms Dr Raja Dhar said, “The symptoms unfortunately of any viral illness is more or less the same. You get a fever, cough and shortness of breath. People who have travelled to cities where COVID-19 cases are active, for example Kerala or East Delhi, and exhibit the said symptoms have a larger probability of being affected.”
- One of the most frequently asked questions about coronavirus is how it is caused and spread?
The most important way in which any respiratory viral illness is spread is droplet infection. When someone sneezes or coughs, they let out fine droplet particles and people who are standing within a distance of 6 feet get affected because these droplets go in through the nose, mouth and deposit themselves in the breathing tract of the individual in front. This is true for all respiratory viral illness and also true for COVID-19.
- How is COVID-19 different?
Most respiratory viruses would settle on hard surfaces such as tables, chairs and other objects and die an immediate death. The difference with COVID-19 is that they stay alive on that surface for hours. Thus when people touch these surfaces they can carry the virus on their fingers. Later when they rub their mouth or face or eyes, it gets transmitted into the body.
The two most important preventive measure of COVID-19 are:
-Wearing a mask
The first measure is to avoid the contraction of droplet infection. The second is to reduce transmission into the body. Ideally you should wash your hands with soap and when that is not possible clean your hands with an alcohol gel which contains at least 60% alcohol. This manages to kill the virus.
- Is it right to use a mask every day for all individuals at all times to protect themselves from COVID-19?
The answer is NO. The government of India or any government for that matter asks you to use the mask under two situations:
If you yourself have a cough and cold, you wear a mask because it protects the people around you from getting the cold that you have. This applies for all viruses including COVID-19.
Whenever you are at a large gathering, for example a theater, airport or a hospital, you can wear a mask to protect yourself. But just wearing a mask all the time is unnecessary.
It is important not to panic but important to take the protective measures being proposed by the government and other private agencies. Make sure you use a hand sanitizer, minimize the number of times you touch your face on a regular basis, wear a mask if you are going to what is perceived a high risk area, and wear a mask when you yourself have a cough and cold. Most importantly if you do get cough and cold and if you have visited an area where there have been reported cases, do go and get checked up in the designated hospitals and health check-up facilities. It for the protection of yourself and those around you.
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