What is coronavirus? Symptoms, treatment and precautions

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UAE doctor shares safety precautions to be taken to avoid contamination.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Wed 29 Jan 2020, 8:54 AM

Last updated: Wed 29 Jan 2020, 2:44 PM

Coronaviruses are important human and animal pathogens. During epidemics, they are the cause of up to one-third of community-acquired upper respiratory tract infections in adults and probably also play a role in severe respiratory infections in both children and adults. In addition, it is possible that certain coronaviruses cause diarrhoea in infants and children.
Human coronaviruses probably account for five to ten per cent of all acute upper respiratory tract infections in adults. It can cause mild flu-like illness to pneumonia-like presentations.

Fact: There are seven known strains of human coronaviruses:

1. Human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E)

2. Human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43)


4. Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63, New Haven coronavirus)

5. Human coronavirus HKU1

6. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), previously known as novel coronavirus 2012 and HCoV-EMC.

7. Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) - ( Wuhan Corona virus)

Symptoms of coronavirus
Coronaviruses cause colds with major symptoms - fever, sore throat in humans primarily in the winter and early spring seasons.

Coronaviruses can cause pneumonia, either direct viral pneumonia or a secondary bacterial pneumonia, and bronchitis, either direct viral bronchitis or a secondary bacterial bronchitis. The much-publicised human coronavirus discovered in 2003, SARS-CoV which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), has a unique pathogenesis because it causes both upper and lower respiratory tract infections.
Both MERS and SARS have been known to cause severe illness in people. The situation with regard to 2019-nCoV is still unclear. While severe illness, including illness resulting in a number of deaths, has been reported in China, other patients have had a milder illness and been discharged.

 What safety precautions must you take while dealing with a patient suffering from the disease?

The patients should be asked to wear a surgical mask as soon as they are identified and be evaluated in a private room with the door closed, ideally, an airborne infection isolation room if available. Healthcare personnel entering the room should use standard precautions, contact precautions, airborne precautions, and use eye protection (e.g., goggles or a face shield). Immediately notify your healthcare facility's infection control personnel and the local health department.
What safety precautions must you take while travelling to countries with confirmed cases of the virus?

Travellers to Wuhan or any infected area should

· Avoid contact with sick people.

· Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).

· Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

· Older travellers and those with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel to Wuhan with their healthcare provider.

If infected, what is the first thing that must be done?

If you travelled to Wuhan and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should

· Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

· Avoid contact with others.

· Not travel while sick.

· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

· Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

What is the treatment?

"Currently there is no specific treatment available for the disease, but supportive therapy and prophylactic treatment may be initiated to prevent complications from respiratory distress," said Dr Salvin George - Specialist Physician (Internal Medicine), Medcare Hospital Al Safa.

He added, "Consult your nearest hospital where they will assess your vital signs and determine the severity of the illness. You may be isolated if there is a strong suspicion of the coronavirus infection. Blood and body fluid samples will be obtained for testing."
Dr Sreekumar Sreedharan, Specialist Internal Medicine, Aster Union Medical Centre, Karama

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