Corona Virus has taken the world by storm, lets understand this entity better. Corona Virus, i.e. in scientific language, CoV-2 causes the disease COVID-19. Recently, WHO has announced it as a very serious public health situation. Especially because, the fatality rate of the coronavirus seem to be higher than previously realized, about 3.4 %. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 % of those infected.
As per Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, “This virus is not SARS, it’s not MERS, and it’s not influenza. It is a unique virus with unique characteristics, but it may be more deadly”.
The statistics has proved this virus to be more dangerous for elders, i.e. 65 years and above. As per WHO, the mortality increases with tage, highest amongst people > 80 years of age and those with underlying health conditions. Luckily more than 80 % of COVID-19 cases have been mild, according to a report from the CCDC.
We have to take special care of elders, especially those who have low immunity due to other co-morbid disease conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes & lung disease.
Surprisingly, Corona does not discriminate, neither by social status, sex or nationality. Two members of France’s National Assembly are infected by the coronavirus, and five other legislators are being tested for the illness. Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of Italy’s co-ruling Democratic Party has also tested positive. The intensity of the disease can be felt world over, Pope Francis has cancelled his main public appearances to avoid crowds gathering to see him and will stream them on the internet from inside the Vatican because of the widespread outbreak in Italy.
In India, the virus has shown its lethal presence too. It’s heartening to know that Indian Govt., both Central & States have taken proactive measures to fight this menace. India seem to be ready to fight Corona. The Govt. has announced several preventive measures to minimise the entry and spread of coronavirus and has equipped NIV & 52 other labs under the ICMR Viral Research & Diagnostics Laboratories network to test corona virus samples. The important testing centres in India are, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Delhi, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s laboratories at Alappuzha, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai & the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.
But on the other hand, we know the limitations, the expanse of our country & its vast population. According to many experts & my understandings, a) High population density, b) Healthcare access issues (large country with numerous rural pockets), c) Limited trained medical experts & resources and d) Dismal personal hygiene practices are the flash points in case of nationwide outbreak.
The worst fear is from the asymptomatic disease carriers, these human carriers can transmit the disease to large number of people in a community without them having any inkling about it. As per Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) a little more than 1 % of patients with the virus fall in this category, which show no sign of infection.
Indians are social in nature, religious places like temples, mosques, churches, other congregation places, tourism spots can become potential sites for coronavirus transmission in India. Some religious organizations like ISKCON have already released an advisory for their foreign devotees especially from the coronavirus-affected countries, to not visit India for two months, as a precautionary measure.
One of the most critical aspect is testing, the speed is critical, but equally or more important is making sure the laboratory results are correct.
To tackle this disease, we all should understand the transmission of this deadly virus, as it spreads through an infected person:
- Through small body fluid droplets while sneezing or coughing
- It can also spread through blood, faecal-oral, or body fluid routes
- Touch, handshakes, physical contact (adopt ‘Namaste’, Social distancing practices)
- Through objects shared/ touched by the infected person. Touching a surface/ object which has the virus infection & transferring the same to your mouth, nose, eyes by unwashed hands.
As per WHO, corona virus can only survive on surfaces for a few hours. Simple disinfectants can kill the virus, making it no longer dangerous.
By the onset of Corona, the Face masks are in high demand & the rates have sored through the sky. But the fact is N95 masks are only recommended for the doctors and nurses that are going to be taking care of individuals that have this illness, and as per WHO guidelines, the masks are not required for the general population.
Adopt Practice Of Namaste…
The most damning question is, Can we cure COVID-19? and the answer is not affirmative. As the infection is caused by a virus, it is very difficult to cure. Till date, we don’t have any specific antiviral medications to tackle this virus. Worldwide, people with COVID-19 are offered supportive care to help relieve the symptoms. Scientists are studying the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus published by Chinese authorities, which is expected to throw a light on the medicine to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
In India, The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has granted approval to the ICMR to use a combination of lopinavir & ritonavir in the event of the coronavirus turning into a public health emergency. These drugs are currently used for the treatment of HIV.
The situation leaves us with only one logical option, that is to avoid this virus. The prevention measures/ precautions to take are as follows:
- Avoid large public gatherings
- Stay at home, avoid unnecessary travel
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Limit/ avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, and then discard the tissue properly
- Clean & disinfect frequently touched items and surfaces using household cleaning sprays
- Wash your hands often with soap & water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing and after returning from outside
- Stay home when you’re sick
- Choose a room in your home that can be used to separate sick household members from those who are healthy.
- In case of outbreak, limiting close contact with others as much as possible is advised
- Also, stock 3 months’ supply of necessary medicines.
The last precaution is mentioned specially because of our pharma Industry’s dependency on Chinese raw materials. According to the Trade Promotion Council of India, approx. 85% of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) imported by Indian companies are from China.
To be real, we may experience issues in medicine/ drugs availability, supply disruption and price volatility if the situation in China does not improve fast.
So, the take home point is: We need maximum testing capacity to enable successful implementation of the public health strategies that can best protect the citizens. And COVID19 can be stopped only by quickly identifying cases, isolating them and following their contacts. The speed of the response will play a critical role in stopping the coronavirus at its tracks.
(By: Dr. Nitin Malekar, Healthcare Communications Expert)