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March 09, 2020 Monday 01:59:30 PM IST

Corona Virus - Be Cautious, Don't Panic!

Health Monitor

By Dr Anu Mary Bose
Consultant and In-Charge,  
Dept Of Clinical Microbiology, Rajagiri Hospital, Aluva

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of enveloped non-segmented positive-sense RNA viruses belonging to the family Coronaviridae which are broadly distributed in humans and other mammals. This beta coronavirus can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and humans. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

In December 2019, a series of pneumonia cases of unknown cause emerged in Wuhan city, Hubei Province, China, with clinical presentations that greatly resembling viral pneumonia. Deep sequencing analysis from lower respiratory tract samples indicated a novel coronavirus that was not previously isolated from humans, which was named the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Recently it was renamed as CoViD 2019 (Corona Virus Disease 2019).

Human to human transmission of the disease was also noted which resulted in spread to other countries. The 2019 n-CoV was declared a public health emergency of international concern by WHO in January 2020, as the outbreak continued to spread outside China. Three students from Kerala presently studying in China were diagnosed with this disease while they returned home recently.

Many of the patients in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by 2019-nCoV in Wuhan, China had some link to large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-human spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets emerged, indicating person-to-person spread.

Spread of the Disease

Most often, spread from person-to-person happens among close contacts (about 6 feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unclear if a person can get 2019-nCoV by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

Incubation Period
The incubation period is the time between the entry of infectious agents into the body and the onset of clinical symptoms of the disease. Current estimates of the incubation period range from 2-14 days with median estimates of 5-6 days.

As with other respiratory illnesses, infection with 2019-nCoV can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.


Presently National Institute of Virology (NIV), a government-owned testing laboratory in Pune has the facility to diagnose novel Coronavirus infection by PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) of respiratory samples. The facility also is now available in NIV Kerala Unit, Alappuzha.


No specific treatment or vaccines are currently available. Supportive measures are taken to enable the patient to get back to normalcy.

Preventive Measures

1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

2. Keep contaminated hands away from the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose

3. Cover the nose/mouth with single-use tissue paper when coughing, sneezing, wiping and blowing noses

4. If no tissues are available, cough or sneeze into the inner elbow rather than the hand

5. Do not share articles/cloths used by a patient with fever

6. Avoid spitting in public

7. Avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals

8. Avoid travel to crowded/ endemic areas

9. Avoid self-treatment and seek medical attention if you have fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms. History of travel to China or other affected countries or contact with affected persons is to be revealed to your health care worker.

10. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.

11. Avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products.

There is a need for caution but no reason to panic.