Dr Asif Channer
NOVEL Corona Virus is a new disease in the history of mankind. It has been named as “Covd-19” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 February 2020. It is an RNA virus and it belongs to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) viruses’ family. The disease surfaced to international horizon from Wuhan in Hubei Province Chine for the first time on December 1, 2019 when about 41 people developed unusual pneumonia despite the availability of vaccine and antiviral treatment. Animals sold for food were suspected to be its source because many of the these infected individuals were workers of Hunan Seafood Market selling fish, bats, chickens, venomous snakes, pheasants, spotted deer, marmots, and the organs of rabbits and other wild animals.
It has been claimed by Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hubei Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention that bats and snakes are the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the Covd-19 which then transmitted to humans. Covd-19 has been affecting 29 countries across Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region with total 73,334 confirmed cases along with1,873 deaths, all in China except one in the Philippine as on 18 February 2020. Most of those who died are older patients, about 80% were over the age of 60, and 75% had pre-existing health conditions. The victim may be without any symptoms or have mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, pain in the muscles, tiredness and diarrhoea. More serious cases develop severe pneumonia, sepsis and septic shock that can lead to the death. Young children, elderly people and those with underlying conditions like hypertension, heart disorders, diabetes, lungs and liver disorders are at risk of contracting severe disease. Human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed and it spreads through aerosol droplets expelled when an infected individual coughs or sneezes within a range of about 06 feet, which can also contaminate surfaces like door handles or railings. Coronavirus droplets only stay suspended in the air for a short time, but can stay viable and contagious on a glass, metal or plastic surface for up to nine days. Moreover the viral RNA has also been found in stool samples from infected patients. The virus has also been found in the human semen and the vaginal secretions, hence the sexual transmission is also possible.
As a preventive measure Wuhan and 15 cities in the surrounding Hubei province have been placed on full or partial lockdown, involving suspension of all urban public transport and outward transport by train, air and long-distance buses since 24 January 2020. In 24 of China’s 31 provinces, many new year events and tourist attractions, traditional temple fairs and other celebratory gatherings, cinemas and theme parks have been closed to ensure social distancing between people over fear of transmission. In addition, a number of countries have evacuated their citizens from highly risk areas of China, directed their citizens to avoid unnecessary visits to Chine and have put out travel advisories warning against travel to Wuhan and Hubei Provinces. Travellers who have visited Mainland China have been asked to strictly monitor their health for at least two weeks and advised to wear a protective mask. The precautionary measures stress frequent washing of hands with soap and water for at least 15 to 20 seconds, especially after going to toilets, before eating and after blowing nose, coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching of mouth, nose and eyes unless the hands are clean. Ensure covering of mouth while coughing and sneezing.
There is no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats can be infected. However, it is better not to touch animals nor eat game meat and avoid visiting farms and live poultry markets. There is no vaccines nor authentic treatment available for this disease to-date the only guidelines to treat patients with infection are to treat the clinical symptoms like fever, supportive care and monitoring, oxygen therapy, fluid management and trial of anti-virals. As Mainland China is a major manufacturing and economic hub, the viral outbreak has been seen causing significant destabilizing impact not only to Chinese but also to the global economy. Tourism in China has been hit hard by travel restrictions and fear of contagion, including a ban on both domestic and international tour groups. The majority of schools and universities have extended their annual holidays. The demand and price of personal protection equipment (PPEs) has risen in China and affected regions. Nevertheless, it is safe to receive a package from China or any other place where the virus has been identified. People receiving packages are not at risk of contracting the new Corona-virus because the virus doesn’t survive long on objects, such as letters or packages. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a Public Health Emergency and Chinese authorities including affected regions have been implementing a number of extraordinary control measures around the globe, as already mentioned, to control its further spread. Unfortunately, it is not possible to predict how long the outbreak will last and how the epidemic will evolve overall. This is a new virus hence there is a lot of uncertainty whether transmission will decrease or not, during the summer as is noticed for seasonal influenza. The world is at risk from Covd-19. The only preventive steps are to raise the public awareness about this deadly disease, strictly following the precautionary measures and adopting the general principles of personal and food hygiene. In Pakistan, no confirmed case of Covd-19 has been reported to-date.
—The writer is associated with DEO RESCUE 1122 Bahawalpur.
Dr Asif Channer