Expert Speak: How dangerous is the coronavirus, actually?

It takes around 14 days for the symptoms to appear in an infected person.

The coronavirus scare is an alarming reality. While researchers around the world are racking their brains to find a cure for this infection, let's do our bit to understand the risk quotient contain the massive onslaught.

It all started in China sometime back. Ever since, it has spread all around the world, with more and more people getting infected every single day. Most of the countries have already alerted their people to avoid travelling abroad.

As for India, our government is taking every possible measure against this outbreak, including increasing vigil at airports, hotels, etc. so as to screen travellers for signs and symptoms of the infection.

This virus has already got people extremely worried, and bustling with questions and doubts: How dangerous is it? How is it transmitted? What are its symptoms? Naturally, the questions never end! But we can try and answer some of the basic questions here.

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Coronavirus Risk: This is what you need to know

Even with all the research happening around, the world is still unclear about a few very important aspects about the virus. We still don't know the duration of the incubation period, for how long they can be active on solid surfaces etc.

But one thing is clear for sure, that this infection can spread to the lower respiratory system and become very dangerous. According to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can also lead to various fatal complications like pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), gastrointestinal problems, kidney failure etc.

How does the virus spread?

The infection caused by these crown-shaped viruses is not very different from the common cough/flu/cold. The virus spreads if you:

  • Have contact with someone who is already infected
  • Breathe in droplets released from an infected person, when he/she sneezes/coughs. This way, it can spread if the person sneezes/coughs within a distance of 6 feet from you
  • Touch things that have already been touched by an infected person
  • Touch your face/eyes/nose with unwashed hands that might have the virus

What are the precautions one should take?

The first step is to minimise your exposure to the risk factors. Here's how you can do so:

  • Staying away from people with fever/cold
  • Washing hands with sanitizers after using public transport/washrooms
  • Keeping yourself clean, and avoid touching eyes/mouth/nose with unwashed hands
  • Using a face mask that can purify the air which you inhale

What are the signs of coronavirus infection? What are the risk factors?

Most people won't be able to spot the infection on time, since the symptoms would seem pretty much the same as a common cold/flu. It takes around 14 days for the symptoms to appear in an infected person. The most common symptoms are running/blocked nose, sore throat, feverishness and tiredness, pain in the sinuses, shortness of breath and coughing etc.

Common risk factors for contracting this infection are:

  • Low immunity level
  • Existing heart disorders
  • Being a senior citizen

What about diagnosis and treatment?

If you exhibit the symptoms, a doctor can do a physical examination, blood tests, throat and nose swabs etc. The samples collected will then be checked for the presence of the unique crown-shaped coronaviruses.

As for the treatment, there is nothing specific yet. But anti-viral medicines can kill the viruses and stop them from spreading. Taking aspirin will help with the fever and headaches caused by the infection. Also infected people will have to consume fluids and electrolytes to stay hydrated and recover. In case of any complication, treatment for that specific illness will have to be initiated as well.

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