What is coronavirus?
The novel coronavirus, now called SARS-CoV-2, causes the disease COVID-19. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, 2019. Baring Antarctica, the virus has spread to every continent. Compared to seasonal flu, the death rate appears to be higher. However, it also varies by location as well as a person’s age, underlying health conditions, among other factors.
Scientists can’t yet say for sure what the fatality rate of the coronavirus is. It is not certain yet how many people have become infected with the disease. However, there is a widespread consensus that COVID-19 is most dangerous for elderly patients and those with preexisting health burdens. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization put on March 5th, during a news conference, that about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 patients around the world have died. This is low compared to MERS epidemic which has fatality rate of 34.3% and SARS with 9.6%.
How to take precaution?
WHO has provided guidelines which can be effectively used to control the spread of coronavirus.
i) Wash your hands frequently: Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Doing so kills viruses that may be on your hands.
ii) Maintain social distancing: At least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing should be maintained. Coughing or sneezing spray small liquid droplets from nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
iii) 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.
iv) Practice respiratory hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
v) Seek medical attention: 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.
Is hydroxychloroquine the answer to COVID-19?
COVID-19 has never been seen in humans before and as such there are currently no vaccines to prevent or drugs to treat coronavirus infection. More distressing is the news around the world of people self-medicating at home with the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. This confusion arises after US president Donald Trump’s announcement on Twitter that implied hydroxychloroquine and another drug (the antibiotic azithromycin) taken together could treat novel coronavirus. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement in response, saying they’re still looking into whether chloroquine can treat people with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19. The science around chloroquine and COVID-19 is so far inconclusive. In short hydroxychloroquine is not the game changer. No one should be self-treating with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.
How long to wait for vaccine to fight COVID-19?
COVID-19 is new and scientists understand little about how it behaves and spreads. Technology is enabling new methods of exploring vaccine candidates for trial, but there are already a few tried and tested ways to make them. Vaccines need lots of tests. Good news is a number of organizations are helping to fund the process to find vaccine and at the same time several organizations and institutions working on vaccines. Studies suggests time to get a COVID-19 vaccine to market is likely to be at least 18 months.