The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan but has since breached that epicentre, spreading to scores of other territories worldwide and resulting in large-scale lockdowns effectively shutting off major cities and even whole countries from the rest of the world.
India is far from immune to this trend. To slow the spread of COVID-19, the Government imposed a 21-day lockdown at the national level that effectively isolated 1.3 billion people to their homes.
Prevalence of coronavirus
Globally, the case count has risen swiftly in recent weeks. Currently numbering at 542,533 at the time of writing. 24,369 people have died due to COVID-19 while 126,257 have recovered from the virus, leaving 391,907 active cases across the globe. Just over a week previously, Health Issues India reported that global cases had exceeded 200,000 — illustrating the rapid upward trajectory of the infection rates globally.
India is currently in the midst of the initial outbreak stage of the infection, and is seeing an upward curve in much the same way as many other countries have at the start of their respective outbreaks. While the initial outbreak in India saw a handful of cases limited to the state of Kerala, numbers have risen into the hundreds, with 775 cases at the time of writing, alongside fourteen deaths so far.
State distribution figures offered by the Centre indicate that most states have reported at least one case. Maharashtra has been the most affected, reporting 127 cases among Indian nationals. By contrast, Manipur, Mizoram and Puducherry have all reported just one case each.
The most common signs of an infection by the coronavirus are coughing, shortness of breath, and tiredness. The overlap of symptoms between coronavirus and a myriad of other infectious diseases has made the situation difficult, with only official testing being able to differentiate the coronavirus from a common cold or the flu.
Should these symptoms occur, medical attention is not yet a priority at this point. The following symptoms have been put forward as warning signs of a more severe infection: difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to respond, and bluish lips or face. Should any of these symptoms occur, medical attention should be sought out.
The elderly, as well as those with underlying medical problems such as lung conditions or heart disease, are far more at risk of severe symptoms due to comorbidity. It is encouraged that those who are more prone to extreme effects of the condition go to extensive lengths to isolate themselves to avert potential infection.
Prevention and treatment
Currently, beyond symptom management through intensive care, there are no treatments available specifically for the coronavirus. Neither is there a vaccine in place that can be used to aid in prevention.
As such the default position that many countries — including India — have now taken is a lockdown. At first, all public gatherings of any considerable scale were prevented. This has since been adjusted to a total lockdown in which individuals have been advised to remain within their homes. In theory, given the incubation time of the virus, this will consist of 21 days of lockdown, at which time the situation can be reviewed should transmission have slowed.
In addition to the quarantine, individuals have been reminded to follow basic sanitation protocols such as handwashing, as the soap is capable of breaking down the lipid-based outer layer of the virus, effectively destroying it. Avoiding touching one’s face is also recommended.