In December 2019, China reported multiple cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million people in the central Hubei province. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported the virus was previously unknown; it seemed that most of the infected worked at the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. By January 7, Chinese officials and WHO announced the identification of the virus which seemed to be a part of the family of coronavirus, which includes the SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the common cold. This new strain of the virus was named 2019-nCoV; the novel virus has since then spread faster and furthermore than 4,474 people are known to be infected and at least 107 deaths have been recorded.
Most of the severe cases have been reported in Mainland China, although the US, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan have confirmed cases too. Wuhan and 18 other cities in China are currently under quarantine, with air and railway services suspended. As of yet, WHO has not declared a global health crisis that would see emergency measures put in place; the organization said it was “too early” to do so, as per the Telegraph.
The new virus has allegedly made its way into India, with suspected cases in Hyderabad and Delhi, although they have not been confirmed. The WHO and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released information regarding the symptoms to look out for and precautions to be taken by the general public in the wake of this deadly disease.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
According to the CDC, there are three main symptoms of the novel virus are very similar to those of the common cold-
1. Fever, and fatigue
3. Shortness of breath
These symptoms may later progress to pneumonia, and in more severe cases, the infection can cause severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. According to CDC, previous observation of the incubation period of the MERS virus (Middle East respiratory syndrome, another form of coronavirus) states that the symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. CDC also reported some grave news- that while some people with the virus show “little to no symptoms,” others fall “severely ill” and die, the virus differs from person to person. China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei also stated that since the virus does not respond to antibiotics and can be spread further due to delay in symptoms, it is a deadly infection.
According to the WHO, the general public should not jump to conclusions since the symptoms of the virus and the common cold are similar. They recommend hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices as precautions and safety measures:
Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus
Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. COVID-19 is still affecting most people in China with some outbreaks in other countries. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
Stay informed and follow the advice given by your healthcare provider
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow the advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading
Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers. Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.