Coronavirus disease 2019, or "COVID-19," is an infection caused by a specific virus called SARS-CoV-2. It’s a mutant variety of early SARS virus with more infectious and more lethal potential.
How is COVID-19 spread?
When a person carrying the virus (who may or may not have symptoms) coughs or sneezes near other people. If you touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
44 percent can have no symptoms initially but transmit the virus to others making them difficult to detect. 60-70 percent infected persons can have mild to moderate symptoms that does not need hospitalisation (fever, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, fatigue). But it’s important for them and their close contacts to have isolation for atleast 14 days.
Upto 20 percent can have severe symptoms ( breathing difficulty, effect on other organs like heart and kidneys) requiring hospitalisation many of which will need Intensive Care Death has been reported in 3-8% of infected population despite highest level of care.
Severe disease is more common in people who are older or have other health problems like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, or cancer.
While children can get COVID-19, they seem less likely to have severe symptoms. However they are sources of infection to other members who can have serious manifestations.
How is COVID-19 treated?
No specific treatment for COVID-19. So far use of various drugs to slow down viral growth is only “Experimental” and for research purposes. They have NOT been shown to have any significant effect in management.
While mild and moderately affected patients can expect to get better in 1 or 2 weeks time, the severely affected ones invariably need hospitalisation, usually in Intensive Care.
Why Severely Ill COVID-19 patients are a challenge to treat?
Severe and Critically affected patients are a challenge to treat because:
China had to build new hospitals with Negative Pressure Chambers to manage COVID-19 patients, but it’s not feasible for resource poor countries thereby posing a great risk to a large section of population.
What is “flattening the curve” of Corona epidemic?
Flattening the curve refers to using protective practices to slow the rate of COVID-19 infection so hospitals have room, supplies and doctors for all of the patients who need care.
On a graph, a sudden surge in patients over a short time could be represented as a tall, narrow curve. Too many people becoming severely ill with COVID-19 at roughly the same time could result in a shortage of hospital beds, equipment or doctors.
On the other hand, if that same large number of patients arrived at the hospital at a slower rate, for example, over the course of several weeks, the line of the graph would look like a longer, flatter curve.
In this situation, fewer patients would arrive at the hospital each day. There would be a better chance of the hospital being able to keep up with adequate supplies, beds and health care providers to care for them.
Limiting the Spread: Given the high infectivity of COVID-19, increased mortality and difficulty in its management, the only option in resource poor countries is to limit its spread.
Two most important measures include personal hygiene and social distancing.
If someone in your home has COVID-19, there are additional things you can do to protect yourself and others:
Clean often – Here are some specific things that can help:
Clean things in your home with soap and water, but also use disinfectants on appropriate surfaces. Some cleaning products work well to kill bacteria, but not viruses, so it's important to check labels.
Because 44% of patients can initially have no symptoms but continue to infect others, Social Distancing has been advocated as an important measure to limit the spread.
There is a wrong notion that COVID-19 causes problems in only older and people with other underlying medical conditions. However we need to understand that every infected person, young or old, can transmit the virus to anyone and cause catastrophic problems to others that could include the elder members of their own families.
So, even if you are healthy, limiting contact with other people can help slow the spread of disease.
In general, the recommendation is to:
What is self-quarantine?
Recommended for 14 days if risk of exposure:
Two weeks provides enough time for them to know whether or not they will become ill and be contagious to other people.
Once your quarantine period has ended, if you do not have symptoms, follow your doctor’s instructions on how to return to your normal routine.
What is isolation?
For people who are confirmed to have COVID-19, isolation is appropriate.
Isolation is a health care term that means keeping people who are infected with a contagious illness away from those who are not infected. Isolation can take place at home or at a hospital or care facility. Special personal protective equipment will be used to care for these patients in health care settings.
Author is a Senior Clinical Fellow, Cardiology, Chelsea and West Minister NHS Trust, London, UK