Coronavirus update: New Indian helpline, death toll reaches 132, common symptoms and more
The Integrated Disease Surveillance Program, Delhi office, confirmed that there are no cases yet in India, but some precautionary steps need to be taken.
On Jan 28, India’s health ministry opened a 24x7 helpline to address queries, in the midst of growing concern — and misinformation — about the new China virus.
“There’s so much misinformation out there,” said Dr Sonia Bhatt, who is associated with myUpchar. “People are saying things like ‘don’t eat out to avoid infection’. That is not how a virus spreads.”
Despite multiple attempts, myUpchar could not get through to the helpline number earlier this morning. However, the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program, Delhi office, was forthcoming with information and guidelines on how to stay safe over the phone. The person who answered the call even shared a phone number for a doctor who could help in case the caller was experiencing flu-like symptoms.
How far has the coronavirus spread?
The Wuhan coronavirus, formally called the 2019 n-CoV virus, has so far caused the death of 132 and infected nearly 6,000 in China itself. Notably, there are no confirmed cases in India yet.
It is not known how fast the disease can spread, but human to human transmission has been confirmed. The new virus has been identified as a novel coronavirus. It is from the same family that caused the SARS outbreak, which also originated in China in 2002-03, and MERS, which originated in the Middle East in 2012. The novel virus is most likely transmitted by coughing and sneezing.
China has cordoned off the city of Wuhan, roads leading to it and within are closed and public transport has been suspended. The government has urged people to wear masks and practice adequate self-hygiene. The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday declined to call it a global public health emergency, but most countries including India have issued travel advisories that suggest avoiding visits to China.
How can one stay safe from the virus?
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare shared a 24x7 helpline number (011-23978046) on Twitter yesterday but myUpchar was unable to get through as the number was busy and the call kept getting dropped. The IDSP (Integrated Disease Surveillance Program), Delhi office, confirmed that there are no cases yet in India, but some precautionary steps need to be taken.
- Regularly washing your hands and maintaining personal hygiene is the best defence.
- If you are coughing or feeling unwell, it is a good idea to visit your physician.
- Other than treating symptoms, your doctor will ask about your travel history. If you have been to affected areas in the last 15 days, you may need to be isolated until the illness passes and you are declared to not be a transmitter.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include those commonly seen in the common cold such as coughing, sneezing and a mild fever. In more severe cases, there will be lesions in the lungs and pneumonia. It is believed, but not confirmed, that the virus incubates for two weeks before symptoms appear. However, you may be contagious before symptoms appear.
According to health officials, more recent patients have displayed different initial symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues like diarrhoea.
What treatment options are available?
Last week the WHO approved a diagnostic test to screen suspected patients. Currently, there is no treatment for the viral infection other than managing symptoms, resting and letting the body fight the battle. However, officials have said that a vaccine against the virus may be ready to be tested three months from now. Prevention remains the gold standard for now. You could stay safe by regularly washing your hands, eating well-cooked food and avoiding people who are sick.
Will wearing a mask help?
Masks are limited in their ability to prevent infection since they are not airtight. They can offer some protection, but it is far from ideal. If you are coughing, however, wearing a mask will lower the likelihood of you transmitting the disease.
How contagious and deadly is the disease?
The Lancet published a study that identified a family cluster. One person was able to pass on the infection to six people, only two of whom were in direct contact with the infected person.
About 22% of those infected are known to have visited the market where it all started, and a further 32% contracted it from them. The rest, however, had nothing to do with the market or secondhand exposure from those who did.
The virus can produce mild symptoms, which makes detection tricky. It is the severe cases that often end up receiving attention.
It is not yet known how deadly the infection is. To put viral infections into perspective, the WHO says that 650,000 people die annually due to complications from seasonal influenza (or common cold). SARS and MERS had a mortality rate of 10% and 35% of people who got sick, respectively.
For more information, read our article on Coronavirus: Symptoms, Types, Diagnosis and Treatment.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that neither myUpchar nor firstpost is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.
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