What is coronavirus, how does it spread?: Here’s everything you need to know


Shafaqna Pakistan:Pakistan detected its first two cases of novel coronavirus on Wednesday, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said.

According to a statement, the first positive case was reported in Karachi in a 22-year-old male with a “history of travel to Iran where he has acquired the virus.” The second case was reported in Islamabad.

As of February 27, the virus has reportedly spread to more than 30 countries, killing over 2,800 and infecting 80,000, mostly in China. But new outbreaks in Europe, the Middle East and in Asia have fanned fears of the contagion taking hold in poor nations which lack the healthcare infrastructure to cope.

Pakistan, which has taken some essential steps in wake of this epidemic, still faces a potentially devastating health crisis from the new coronavirus as its neighbour Iran has emerged as a major hotspot, with 139 reported cases and 19 deaths after China, which also shares a border with Pakistan.

World Health Organisation has recommended people to take precautions against coronavirus to reduce exposure and transmission.

Here are some essential details about the deadly outbreak that may help contain the spread of this epidemic:

What are the symptoms?

The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer from cough, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we take against flu will not work, while recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

How does coronavirus spread?

The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak is a new illness and scientists are still assessing how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses tend to spread via cough and sneeze droplets.

1- When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release droplets of saliva or mucus. These droplets can fall on people in the vicinity and can be either directly inhaled or picked up on the hands then transferred when someone touches their face, causing infection. For flu, some hospital guidelines define exposure as being within six feet of an infected person who sneezes or coughs for 10 minutes or longer.

2- It can also be spread through droplets landing on surfaces such as desks in school and seats on buses or trains. However, whether this is a main transmission route depends on how long viruses survive on surfaces — this can vary from hours to months.

3- According to reports, the virus can be spread by people before they have symptoms. Some other illnesses such as flu can be passed from one person to another before symptoms occur.

How to protect yourself from coronavirus?

If you have returned from an affected area in the last two weeks, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people for 14 days. This means not going to work, school or public areas.

Wash your handswith clean, running water and apply soap. Lather your hands, including the backs, between your fingers, and under your nails and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the bin and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue to hand, cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.

Face masks offer some protection as they block liquid droplets. However, they do not block smaller aerosol particles that can pass through the material of the mask. The masks also leave the eyes exposed and there is evidence that some viruses can infect a person through the eyes.

Seek early medical help if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, share your travel history with healthcare providers.

Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces if you are visiting live markets in affected areas.

Avoid eating raw or under cookedanimal products if you are in an affected area and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?

China’s national health commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere.