How The Coronavirus Must Be Fought?

by Dr Suhail Naik

Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) are an old family of RNA viruses. They are most frequently associated with the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections characterized by rhinorrhea, nasal congestion, sore throat, sneezing, cough and fever.

Coronavirus

These viruses are not only human-specific but are distributed throughout the universe in different birds, reptiles, amphibians. Sometimes two serotypes of coronaviruses or other viruses come together and exchange their genetic material and result in new virus with different structure, properties, virulence, secondary infective rate (number of persons who will get an infection from case or carrier) and case fatality rate (number of persons who will die among infected cases)

Such exchange of genetic material can be natural, accidental or manmade like software viruses are generated for laptops and cellular phones.   As soon as a new series of android phones or laptops are launched, a chain of software viruses are simultaneously innovated and circulated to damage these devices. Therefore it becomes imperative on customers to purchase and install a good number of antivirus software in their gadgets.

The creation, propagation and circulation of software viruses and anti-viruses is notorious work of some mischievous human beings with a vested interest.

Similarly, Covid-19 is a new virus with very high virulence, infective rate and case fatality.  It is still not known whether Covid 19 is naturally, accidentally or intentionally created, it’s genomic and molecular structure is altogether new for the human immune system and with the result every human being on this planet is susceptible to this novel virus. The immune system of human beings is not upgraded and ready to combat this novel virus. Further novel Covid 19 has surprised the modern medical science which doesn’t have any anti-virals or vaccines to combat, contain and curtail the Covid 19 pandemic, which has engulfed more than 100 countries and is still propagating.

A microscopic image of Coronavirus. Pic: Internet

What we have learned from Wuhan China about this virus in this short span of time is that it has high secondary infective rate with every single patient or carrier spreading it to at least three persons and subsequently these three to next nine persons and so on. This is akin to a nuclear fission chain reaction and is propagating to reach every nook and corner of this planet. To break down this chain every country has to take extraordinary measure to curtail the spread of this dreaded bug. Accurate response at the correct time is going to save human lives and or humanity.

To disallow Covid-19 to enter into Jammu and Kashmir UT, the administration might think of total cancellation of flight operations, suspension of tourism, sports and cultural and political events, closure of schools, colleges and universities and prohibition on religious gatherings and cancellation of all examinations. Further, every person coming to UT must be screened, tracked and quarantined. The only hope right now is that with increasing environmental temperatures the activity and propagation of virus may slow down to a level where the health care system will not crumble.

The biggest concern about Covid-19 is that it’s spread to India which is the second highly populated country after China can prove disastrous and biggest human tragedies. China constructed a full-fledged multi-story dedicated hospital within days and equipped it with man, machinery and an unlimited number of Mechanical Ventilators. At least every patient who deserved ventilatory support got it at right time. Still, the case fatality rate in Wuhan ranged between 2.5 to 2.9 per cent.

India being a developing country where poverty, malnutrition, overcrowding, poor standards of life, illiteracy are still rampant and health system is fragile lacking in infrastructure,  man and machinery power, the apprehensions are  Covid-19 can prove disastrous and result in historical human tragedy, if right responses and slew of measures are not taken at right time.

In light of knowledge gained from Wuhan China on the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical measures against COVID-19, like rapid detection, large scale case isolation and quarantine of contacts, the spread of the virus can be contained.

Furthermore, it is the primary responsibility of society in general and leaders, doctors, teachers, preachers, scholars and media houses, in particular, to educate and propagate knowledge of basic respiratory hygiene so that spread of this virus can be halted.

People are advised to :

Wash your hands frequently: Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. 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 one-metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth: 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.

At the time of fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care: 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.

Healthy people should not use face masks, only patients with respiratory infections and workers in hospitals need masks. The public must understand that they can even use their handkerchief to cover mouth and nose. The handkerchief can be washed by soap and water and will be virus-free. Masks must be changed when they become wet with saliva or other bodily fluids, as they lose their protective properties.  Only attendants and health workers need to wear N95 mask. They need to be discarded after a single use of fewer than 8 hours.

The virus spreads through the air via droplets or when these droplets fall on any surface which someone touches. The virus spreads through a handshake or touching as well.

It is not known “how long the virus remains alive outside the human body. Most probably it can survive for 12 hours and therefore It is unlikely that it will spread through “made in china products” as it will not survive weeks.

The virus can stay on hands for hours and not just “10 minutes”. It may remain for days on clothes and not “9 hours”. Remaining in sun for 2 hours is not proven to kill the virus.

Putting the hand sanitizer in a pocket does not kill the virus. One should use the sanitizer on hands or wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

There is no risk of infection in eating chicken or meat after cooking it properly. Presently virus is spreading from human to human although it may have originated from snakes, bats or some other animal.

Finally heat inactivates the most of the respiratory viruses. Though for Covid-19 it is still not known that at what temperature it’s activity and propagation will come to halt. We are hopeful that with rising atmospheric temperatures the coronovirus pandemic for which we don’t have any weapons (antivirals and vaccine) to combat will suddenly come to an end.

(A Consultant paediatrician, Dr Naik haeds the Doctors Association of Kashmir)

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