The coronavirus pandemic has hit the world hard, but this is not the first time that it has happened. In the past there have been two other mutated coronaviruses that have caused epidemics. One was the SARS which was in 2002 and the other was the MARS, which was in 2012.
To give you a comparison, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) caused by a novel coronavirus in 2002 had a mortality rate of 10%. The MERS, which is the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome that came out in 2012, had a mortality rate of 35%. The current SARS 2 Coronavirus which causes COVID-19 has mortality in the region of about 2 to 3% probably more likely 1.5 to 2.5%.
To give an idea, when we say infectiousness, we use the terminology called RO whereby we refer to what are the chances of an infected person transmitting to others and the chances of one infected person with COVID-19 can be transmitted to about 1.5 to 2.5 people. Here the incubation period can be as long as 14 days. Also, in flu the person has fever, body pain and cough which is also quite often seen with COVID-19, but in flu a lot of people have up respiratory symptoms in the form of cold, blocked nose, running nose which is less often seen with COVID-19.
COVID-19 and flu are very similar in terms of how they are acquired which is through respiratory droplets and touching in animate surfaces which are contaminated by a person’s coughing and sneezing and then taking our hand near the mouth or face. The symptoms are similar. The mortality is probably a little higher.
Home quarantine is advised in two situations
One if you have come from a country where there is local transmission of this infection like in China, Iran, Italy, Germany, France or probably some other countries in near future which may report any cases. If you have come from any of these countries, and even if you don’t have symptoms of cough or fever, it is advised you stay in home quarantine for the next 14 days. By home quarantine I mean that you need to stay in a separate room, which is well ventilated with the doors closed. The person should not entertain any visitors and even the family should be at least 1 to 2 meters away from this person at all times. The person should not leave the house, should not go anywhere for any social gatherings, to school or even to social functions. Which means he should be entirely at home isolated.
At present there are lot of people who either have come back from the country where it is prevalent but don’t have symptoms or there are some people who have symptoms, but no exposure to and proven individual with COVID or exposure to any countries where COVID has occurred. Now as I told you, the tests are done only in government centres and Public Health machinery decides who needs to be tested and the test is currently reserved only if you have come from abroad and asymptomatic or you are symptomatic with exposure to approve and COVID-19 case in India.
There is a lot of wishful thinking that heat will kill the virus and it will cease to spread once summer sets in. Now, I am not very confident about this. The virus survives very well at the body temperature of 37 degrees. So in hot temperature if it falls on in-animate object, it will dry very fast. It means that transferring from one person to another through a medium will be less likely. But having said that we need to realise that most of the transmission happens indoors where inevitably the temperatures are much lower and there is air conditioning.
Moving on, flu vaccine is only protective against circulating strain of flu. Because the flu vaccine virus is also very mutable virus or keeps changing every year depending on the circulating strain of the flu virus you need to take your vaccine is a booster every year to prevent yourself from getting flu. This has no connection whatsoever the SARS virus and this will not help protect you against COVID-19.
SARS 2A COVID-19 is a self-limited condition. Incubation period is the time from the onset of exposure to the occurrence of the disease. It is in the median of 45 days, but can vary anywhere from 2 to 14 days. A person shows symptoms of cough, body pain and fever. Almost 80% of infections are mild and do not even want hospitalization. Another 15% may require hospitalization for oxygen and other supportive measures. 5% of people, which is one in 20 may end up in the ICU requiring ventilator support, out of which about 2 people may die. Those who die are typically elderly people over the age of 60 people with other co morbidities like diabetes, heart disease lung disease or kidney disease.
It has been shown that the mortality can be as high as 15% in people over the age of 80. So, at present if you develop symptoms, we advise you home quarantine.
If there is local transmission proven for example in India we start getting people who have never travelled, who have never been exposed to a proven case of COVID-19 being tested and proven that they could have this COVID-19 yes, it means we have to be careful. The general advice we give for everybody is avoid all non-essential travel, avoid all crowds, please do not wear a mask outside if you are public without any symptoms if you have symptoms wear a mask and stay indoors self-quarantine which means if you have some symptoms of cough or fever even if you are not sure it is COVID-19.
All of us need to be safe. We need to ensure that we take personal responsibility for this which means that if you the symptoms of cough or fever irrespective of what it could be please avoid going to work please, avoid sending your children who may be having fever or cough to school to protect others. So civic sense and personal responsibilities are paramount at this point. If it means social isolation yes all of us need to stay indoors so that we don’t spread the virus and transmit it indiscriminately to others. Especially, old people who may not fare well during the current conditions.
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