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Answering FAQs about Covid-19

BY DR. LAHIRU PEIRIS

The coronavirus is making headlines day in, day out right now. It all began on 31 December 2010 when the Chinese Government informed the World Health Organisation (WHO) of a few cases of pneumonia different from the usual pneumonia. According to the Chinese Government, this virus had originated from the city of Wuhan (of the Hubei Province) where 11 million people reside.

On 9 January, a 61-year-old died of heart failure with coronavirus symptoms and Chinese officials announced the first death from the virus on 11 January. On 30 January, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom announced coronavirus as a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”. Sri Lanka confirmed its first case of coronavirus on 27 January – a 40-year-old lady who had visited Sri Lanka on 19 January as a tourist. But thanks to our health system, we managed to cure her successfully and send her back to China.

1. What is coronavirus?

It is a name given to a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses in both humans and animals. The human coronavirus can cause mild symptoms, but the animal coronavirus in humans (zoonotic) can cause severe conditions like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

2. What is the Covid-19 virus?

It is the newly found virus that belongs to the coronavirus family. First, it was determined in Wuhan in the Hubei Province, China. Within the last three months, it has spread not only to other parts of China, but also to other parts of the world, including Italy, Iran, and South Korea. Officials named it “2019-nCOV” on 7 January 2020.

3. What are the methods of it spreading?

Covid-19 is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or exhales air, or through hands. It’s better to stay one metre away from people even if they are having regular sneezing attacks.

4. What is its incubation period?

The incubation period is the time when the infection comes into our body and shows symptoms of that particular disease, and in the case of Covid- 19, the incubation period can be two to 14 days.

5. What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

The three main symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, tiredness, and difficulty in breathing along with cough.

6. For how long will it act on our bodies?

This depends from person to person, according to the treatment facilities, and the immunity of that person. It will take longer if the person is having low immunity or has any other diseases.

7. Who are at risk?

You’ll be at risk if you have come into contact with a person with Covid-19 or if you have travelled to areas where cases have been reported within the last 14 days.

8. What are the methods of prevention?

Prevention is always better than cure. So just like in other diseases, prevention plays a major role in coronavirus.

• Wash hands regularly with soap or alcohol-based hand rubs

• Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth

• Try to stay one metre away from people who are having fever, sneezing, or coughing

• Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbows when sneezing or coughing

• Try to rest, stay home, or opt for immediate medical attention if you’re continuously sneezing, coughing, or experiencing tiredness or fever for at least one day

• It’s also better to alter your plans to travel to other countries

• Make sure to educate yourself about coronavirus through the internet or newspapers, not only to save yourself but also others

9. What is the available treatment?

Just like in dengue and other viruses, there are still no disease-specific treatment measures that have been found, but hospitals are trying their best to save patients’ lives through supportive care.

10. What about a vaccination?

Still, there are no vaccinations to prevent Covid-19, but researchers and microbiologists are working on it.

11. What are some myths about the new coronavirus?

There are so many myths spreading through social media about Covid-19, but the reality is:

• It cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites

• Thermal detectors can identify a fever but not the disease itself

• The pneumococcal vaccine is not used to prevent coronavirus

• Garlic is a healthy food item to consume, but no evidence has found a link between garlic and the new coronavirus

• Antibiotics work only for bacterial infections

• Things manufactured in China have not caused the spread of coronavirus to date

12. What about using a mask?

Using face masks have become a controversy in Sri Lanka, so it’s better to wear a mask if you’re having Covid-19 symptoms or having a close relationship or working with people with coronavirus symptoms.

TIPS

• Covid-19 is a global health emergency

• Cover your nose and mouth when someone next to you sneezes or coughs

• Hand washing is a must

• Antibiotics are not effective for coronaviruses

• Immediate medical attention is required if you’re having fever, cough, or tiredness at least for one day

(The writer is a pre-intern medical doctor at a well-known hospital in Colombo)