On 25 FEBRUARY 2020 |
We are all aware of the outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, China and which has now been detected in 32 locations internationally. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
On January 30, 2020, World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”. As of now around 80,000 people are infected and more than 2600 deaths have occurred. On February 24, two cases reported in Oman also. As this virus is spreading to more countries and there is an increase in cases day by day, we have to be more vigilant. We need to be aware of the symptoms, how it spreads and how can we prevent the infection.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus. They can cause a range of diseases from common cold to severe pneumonia.
Transmission or spread
The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The spread may also occur by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic. Some reports show that this virus can rarely spread before the people show symptoms.
The incubation period is thought to be 2 to 14 days after the exposure. Common signs of infection include fever, running nose, cough and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent the disease. Early recognition and isolation are the key control measures. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Avoid direct contact with animals (live or dead). Make sure that animal products are cooked well before eating them.
It is not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from the virus. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.
Ministry of Health, Oman has definite surveillance and preparedness plan for this virus including monitoring at the points of entry into the Sultanate like airports. Quarantine measures are applied for people travelling from affected countries like China, Japan, South Korea and Iran. Each healthcare institution in Oman also needs to have their own plans and protocols for the virus including early recognition, isolation and infection control measures. They have to follow the algorithms provided by the MOH for notification, testing and further follow up.
Visit your nearest healthcare facility if you have any symptoms like fever, cough and breathing difficulties with a travel history to the affected countries within the past 14 days. Also seek medical care if you have contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is an emerging disease and there is more to learn about its transmissibility, severity, and other features and what will happen in coming days. With proper knowledge of prevention and control of infection and meticulous planning, we hope to reduce the spread of the virus. Don’t panic, be cautious!
Dr. Nasha Kollathodi
MBBS, MD (Microbiology)