Coronavirus In India: COVID-19 FAQs and Prevention Tips For Parents
With the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic causing panic worldwide, here is a complete set of FAQs on human coronavirus and prevention tips for Indian parents to keep the family and kids safe.
By Dr Shyam Kumar
As India and the rest of the world tackle the threat from the growing coronavirus pandemic, it is important for parents to make themselves aware on how to protect the family and kids from COVID-19 and prevent the spread of this disease.
The coronavirus causing this epidemic has been named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).
COVID-19 symptoms and safety tips for parents
As a parent, you will be worrying about your kids or other family members contracting this infectious viral illness and wondering about what prevention measures to take. This article contains detailed information for parents about how coronavirus spreads, its symptoms, and ways to protect your children from contracting the disease.
But before moving on to information about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention tips, let us look at some of the latest information about how the pandemic has gripped the world and some myths associated with it.
Latest update on coronavirus by WHO
Since its outbreak from a seafood market in Wuhan, China, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has caused at least 461,715 deaths and infected nearly 8,708,008 people globally according to the WHO novel coronavirus situation report (21 June 2020).
Here are the latest facts on COVID-19 from WHO:
- Cold weather and snow cannot kill the latest coronavirus.
- COVID-19 virus transmission can also happen in areas with hot and humid climates.
- Taking a hot bath does not prevent the new coronavirus disease.
- The new coronavirus cannot spread through mosquito bites.
Coronavirus in India
India has reported 425,282 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection and 13,699 deaths as of 22 June 2020 according to the Government of India COVID-19 dashboard.
Precautionary measures are in place at airports and railway stations to screen passengers with a recent travel history to any of the affected countries or have been in contact with individuals suspected to have coronavirus infection.
The Government of India has set up a round-the-clock national helpline number (+91-11-23978046 or 1075) to attend to queries.
The Government of India has also placed restrictions on international travel and advised to avoid mass gatherings, and practice social distancing and home isolation to prevent the spread of the disease.
FAQs – Myths busted about COVID-19
On 30 Jan 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.
With COVID-19 spreading to more than 166 countries around the world, WHO has come out with information to dispel myths and confusion regarding the disease.
Here is a list of FAQs about the new coronavirus infection and the facts associated with it:
FAQ 1: How effective are antibiotics in the prevention and treatment of the new coronavirus?
Antibiotics are used in prevention of illnesses caused by bacteria, not viruses. COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 which is a virus. Therefore, antibiotics are not recommended for coronavirus treatment. However, patients may be administered antibiotics if they are found to have a bacterial co-infection during hospitalisation.
FAQ 2: Will spraying alcohol or chlorine all over the body neutralize the new coronavirus?
Spraying alcohol or chlorine over the body to kill viruses is not recommended as it is not an effective measure. While both can be used to disinfect surfaces, they cannot kill the viruses that have already made their way into the body. Also, alcohol and chlorine can be harmful to the mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth.
FAQ 3: Are there any specific drugs to fight the new coronavirus infection?
Currently, there is no medicine or vaccine available to treat SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, appropriate care is needed to relieve symptoms, and supportive care is required for the severely ill.
FAQ 4: Does the new coronavirus affect the elderly more than younger people?
The new coronavirus can infect people of all age groups. The risk of severe illness is higher in the elderly and in people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
FAQ 5: Does garlic have any medicinal property to prevent infection with the new coronavirus?
Garlic is well known for its significant antimicrobial properties. However, there is no report of garlic being able to prevent the new coronavirus infection from spreading nor any indication that people have obtained cure for coronavirus by eating preparations containing garlic.
FAQ 6: Will using hand dryers help in killing the COVID-19 virus?
Using the hand dryer alone will not help kill the coronavirus. To neutralise the coronavirus, the hands need to be thoroughly cleaned with an alcohol-based sanitiser or simply with soap and water. A paper towel or hand dryer can then be used to dry them.
FAQ 7: Can the new coronavirus be spread by pets at home?
There is no evidence to suggest that pets can get infected by the new coronavirus or spread the infection to humans according to WHO. However, a pet dog in Hong Kong whose owner has coronavirus was tested positive for a “low level” of the virus according to a report in the Business Insider.
It is best to follow safe hygiene practices when around pets to prevent common bacterial infections caused by handling them.
FAQ 8: Will receiving a post or a parcel from China cause COVID-19?
According to WHO, viruses do not survive on objects for long. These also include any letters or parcels. Therefore, the new coronavirus will not spread to people receiving any mail or packages from China.
FAQ 9: Will regular rinsing of your nose with saline help to prevent infection from the new coronavirus?
According to WHO, there is no evidence to suggest that regularly rinsing the nose with saline will offer protection against the new coronavirus infection. However, it does help people recover faster from symptoms of the common cold.
FAQ 10: Does applying sesame oil block entry of the new coronavirus into the body?
Applying sesame oil on the body cannot offer protection against the new coronavirus. Only disinfectants such as bleach or chlorine-based disinfectants, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform can kill the virus on contaminated surfaces. Applying these on the skin is not recommended as it can be harmful.
FAQ 11: Can thermal scanners accurately identify individuals infected with the new coronavirus?
Thermal scanners can only help to identify people running a higher than normal temperature. Following confirmation of fever, specific tests can only confirm the infection. Also, someone suffering from the new coronavirus infection may not develop fever symptoms until a few days after being infected. So, a thermal scanner cannot give conclusive information about the infection.
FAQ 12: Will using an ultraviolet disinfection (UV) lamp kill the COVID-19 virus?
According to WHO, it is not safe to use UV lamps to sterilise the hands or other areas of the skin. Exposure to UV radiation is known to cause various health problems and is a main cause of skin cancer.
FAQ 13: Can vaccines against pneumonia offer protection against the new coronavirus?
Pneumonia vaccines, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, are not effective in preventing the new coronavirus infection. There are a lot of research activities going on to find a vaccine against this new strain of virus.
Other myths about the latest coronavirus outbreak
1. Does wearing a face mask prevent the spread of coronavirus disease?
Professional tight-fitting masks such as the N95 used by health workers are very effective in restricting the infection. However, the regular masks used by the general public may not offer the same level of protection. Also, the virus can be transmitted to the face if a person uses his contaminated hands to adjust the mask or touches his nose or mouth.
2. Is the new coronavirus just a mutated form of the common cold?
The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is an entirely new strain of virus similar to the MERS and SARS viruses. Unlike the common cold in which humans are the primary hosts, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus likely passed through an intermediate animal on to humans.
3. Is it true that children do not get coronavirus infection?
Early statistics have suggested a low rate of incidence of COVID-19 in kids compared to adults. To date, there are only a few cases of children having contracted COVID-19. Scientists are unsure why the chances of the disease getting severe in children is comparatively less.
COVID-19 safety tips for parents
Read on to know more about the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, its symptoms, who are at risk, and what parents should do to keep their children safe from such viruses.
Also read: Talking To Your Child About Coronavirus
What is SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?
According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) website, since the 1960s, researchers have identified a total of 7 coronavirus strains in humans. Of these, people are commonly infected with 4 human coronavirus types.
The remaining 3 types of coronaviruses have evolved and spread from animals to humans of which SARS and MERS were identified in the years 2003 and 2012 respectively.
The latest strain of human coronavirus to cause a global health scare has been named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
The disease itself has been named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization. COVID-19 stands for Corona Virus Disease 19.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that mostly infect animals. These viruses usually affect the respiratory tract of birds and mammals causing symptoms of respiratory distress.
In rare instances, they are zoonotic which means they can be transmitted between animals and humans, e.g., the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) outbreaks.
These are spill-over events where the virus mutates and spreads from animals to humans (it then rapidly spreads from one human to another).
What is the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus?
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV virus formerly, was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China.
This new coronavirus is believed to have been initially transmitted from snakes (specifically the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra) to humans at the wildlife and seafood market in Central China. Some patients were vendors or dealers working in this market.
According to the latest reports, human to human spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been confirmed by the Chinese authorities.
Dr. Manjeetha Nath Das, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurugram says,
"According to WHO, the disease is likely to spread. As it is a respiratory virus, the threat is expected to be much more, especially with the cold weather and also the extended winter. It is one of the serious respiratory illnesses which can lead to a pandemic if we do not take care and take steps to contain it now."
What are the symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection?
Said to be milder than SARS and MERS, patients infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus experience mild cough for a week followed by shortness of breath needing medical attention.
The incubation period (time from exposure to onset of symptoms) of the disease is believed to be about two weeks.
According to the World Health Organization, the symptoms include:
- High fever
- Difficulty in breathing
- Possible lesions on both lungs
Other general symptoms of coronavirus infection include:
- Mild to moderate upper respiratory tract symptoms
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
In more severe cases, individuals can develop pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How does the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 spread?
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can spread in the following ways:
- Human-to-human transmission happens through air by coughing and sneezing.
- Touching or shaking hands with a person infected with coronavirus or touching an infected surface.
- Touching your mouth, nose or eyes after coming into contact with an infected person’s belongings.
- Healthcare workers can be exposed to the virus while taking care of the patient and handling the patient’s waste disposal.
Who are at risk?
- Individuals who have visited Wuhan, China, in the two weeks prior to the onset of their symptoms.
- People who have been in close contact with someone under investigation for the virus.
- Caregivers taking care of patients suspected to be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The risk of contracting the infection is higher in older people, children, and those with a weakened immune system.
So far, no cases of Wuhan virus infection have been reported in children.
Dr Das says, "N95 masks are known to be protective in this case. Either a patient wears it or if the patient is affected, then the caretakers exposed to the patient should wear the mask in order to avoid the germs."
How severe is the SARS-CoV-2 viral infection when compared to SARS and MERS?
The severity of symptoms of this illness appear to be milder than that of the SARS and MERS epidemics. Based on a report published in the Wall Street Journal on 24 January 2020, so far only 3% of the reported cases have died from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection.
The WHO website lists the fatality rate from MERS infection at around 34.4%, and a mortality rate of 14-15% for SARS.
Is there any vaccine available for COVID-19?
Currently there is no approved vaccine or antiviral treatment available for the Wuhan virus. However, the symptoms of coronavirus infection can be treated with antivirals already in the market.
"Antiviral drugs and vaccines are at a very preliminary stage of development. The trials are going on in the United States," says Dr Das.
How can you protect yourself and your family from coronavirus infection?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has taken the lives of thousands of people, and the disease is spreading across the world. Here are some suggestions on how to reduce your risk of infection:
- Avoid close contact with people suffering from symptoms of cold.
- Wash your hands properly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleanser for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid touching any live wild or farm animal, and visiting animal markets.
Regarding the concerns about safeguarding your family and children, it is best to remain vigilant about the disease and adopt good personal hygiene practices.
"The novel coronavirus is not as serious as SARS or MERS, but it can cause death and has the potential to turn pandemic. Healthcare professionals and close contacts should wear protective gears including N95 mask. They should disinfect all surfaces with household disinfectants (EPA approved) or a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach mixed in 1 quart water. As there is no treatment, prevention is the best we can do," says Dr Das.
It is best to consult your doctor if you or your family members are suffering from symptoms of respiratory tract infection and you suspect that it has any connection to the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
About the expert:
Reviewed by Dr Manjeeta Nath Das on 24 January 2020
Dr Manjeeta Nath Das is a Senior Consultant in the Department of Internal Medicine at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurugram.
About the author:
Written by Dr Shyam Kumar on 23 January 2020; updated on 22 June 2020
The author holds a degree in Homoeopathy with an MBA in Hospital Management and has worked across multiple disciplines including healthcare and technology. As a nature lover, he attended the world's first underwater CEO's conference to combat marine pollution.
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