FAQs on COVID-19

Dr. Debasish Sarma Roy

March 22, 2020, 15:18:24   

1. What is COVID-19 – Coronaviruses are a class of viruses that mostly cause minor common cold like illnesses in human being. But sometimes these can also cause some serious illnesses like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). A new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has started infecting people from later part of 2019. The disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

2. What is the incubation period (period between entry of the virus in the body and onset of symptoms) – form 2 to 14 days.

3. How does it spread – Mostly spreads via respiratory droplets. That means if you are within six feet of an infected person you can get the virus. It also spreads via fomites – means the surfaces touched by an infected person or where his body secretions have come in contact and later those surfaces were touched by a healthy person and he touches his mouth / nose / eyes etc without properly washing his hands.

4. What are the symptoms – Fever (98%), cough (76%) and tiredness (44%). There may also be pains and aches, runny nose and sore throat. As the disease advances one develops breathlessness (55%) due to pneumonia in both lungs and later multi-organ failure. Your routine blood test may show decreased lymphocyte count (66%). 

5. What are the emergency warning signs to get medical help immediately -  Difficulty in breathing, persistent pain and pressure in the chest, confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face.

6. How to know for sure that you are suffering from COVID19 - If you are having the above mentioned symptoms, you can call on to your doctor and if he feels it necessary may recommend you to give your sample for testing.

7. How the does the doctor collect the sample - He will insert a swab stick into your nostril (parallel to your palate up to a distance roughly equal to the distance from the nostril to the outer opening of the ear), will keep it there for several seconds to absorb secretions, and then slowly remove it. Conversely he may collect a throat swab (less recommended), or sputum (if productive cough), or bronchoalveolar lavage in case of a patient who is on a ventilator. 
8. What test is done - The National task force has recommended only real-time PCR-based assays. Other tests like conventional PCR, in-house real-time PCR and antigen-antibody tests are not recommended.
9. How much a test costs as of present day - The government has allowed private labs (NABL-accredited) to test for COVID—19 at a cost not more than Rs. 4500. (This may include Rs. 1500 for a screening test for suspect cases and an additional Rs. 3000 as confirmation test charges). 

10. Where to go to get this test done - As of now government has released a list of centres where this tests can be done. In Tripura it can be done at the GB Pant Hospital.

11. Who are the most vulnerable persons - Any person aged 70 or above.  People who are below 70 years but having an underlying health condition are also vulnerable. A list of these underlying health conditions are - 1. Chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - emphysema, bronchitis, 2. Chronic heart disease such as heart failure, 3. Chronic kidney disease, 4. Chronic liver disease such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, 5. Chronic neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, multiple sclerosis, 6. Diabetes mellitus, 7. Spleen disease or persons whose spleen has been removed, including sickle cell disease, 8. Persons suffering from AIDS, 9. Persons with weakened immune system by birth, or having steroid or chemotherapy, 10. Seriously overweight (BMI 40 or above), 11. Pregnant women, 12. Hypertension.

12. What are the ominous signs that predicts more chances of severe respiratory distress / death - Persistent high fever, low white blood cell count, increased AST, LDH, Urea in blood, elevated inflammation related substances in blood (CRP, ferritin), elevated coagulation function related factors (prothrombin time, D-dimer).

13. Are you going to die if you get the infection - Very minimum chance (if you are not one with the conditions as mentioned in the last 2 questions). 

14. ABCD of what you can do at home (if you get this infection / suspect having this infection) -A - alienate (isolate yourself), B - bed rest, C - consume enough fluid, D - drug for fever control. 

15. Is there any vaccine - None till date

16. Is there any medicine for it - None approved by experts of CDC or WHO.

17. Was this virus produced in laboratory and later accidentally spread into human being - Very unlikely. SARS-CoV-2 closely resembles 2 other coronaviruses that have triggered serious outbreaks of diseases in recent times- SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. They have about 90% of similarities in their genetic makeup with the coronavirus that infects bats. So all three of these are believed to have jumped from bats, probably through an intermediate host (civets in case of SARS and camels in case of MERS).

18. Is it more deadly than flu - Yes, definitely. Flu epidemics has roughly 0.1% mortality rate, while COVID-19 has around 2.3% mortality rate (so, 23 times higher).

19. If it is not so deadly then why (are) governments taking it so seriously  - India has roughly 15 crore people over 60 years of age. If even 10% of them contract the disease and if

20. 10% of those develops severe pneumonia needing ventilation, then the number will be 15 lakh. That is the exact number of total government hospital beds available in India. Now consider below 70 years most vulnerable groups. That will be another one crore, if not more. So, if all the resources are spent behind this one virus only, how people suffering from other diseases and accidents will survive?

21. How can you protect yourself - It is not easy in a country like India, still you can practice the following things rigorously then you can mostly avoid it 

  1. Avoid close contact with people - stay at least six feet away from other people specially whom you don’t know or who are sick
  2. Stay at home and self isolate you from family members when you are sick
  3. Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitizers 
  4. Avoid touching mouth, nose, eyes with unwashed hands
  5. Wear a face mask when you are sick or when you are around other people and before entering a hospital / dispensary/ medical clinic
  6. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw it in the trash
  7. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces with household cleaners and wipes
  8. Do not go out of home unless absolutely required
  9. Do not visit hospitals or nursing homes on social calls alone
  10. Develop some healthy habits to boost your immune system – like eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, regular physical exercise etc.


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