As India reports surge in Covid-19 cases, here’s a comprehensive guide to stay safe

According to various reports, India has reported over 3,700 Coronavirus or Covid-19 cases in less than 24 hours. As such, while it becomes imperative to wear masks, it is also essential to be on guard and take preventive measures to stay safe. Here’s a ready reckoner on Covid-19 symptoms, causes, prevention, treatment, and vaccination that can come handy.

What is Covid-19?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Covid-19 is the disease caused by a new virus called SARS-CoV-2. WHO first learned of this new virus on December 31, 2019, following a report of a cluster of cases of ‘viral pneumonia’ in Wuhan, People’s Republic of China.

The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are

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Fever
Dry cough
Fatigue

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Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include:

Loss of taste or smell, nasal congestion, Conjunctivitis (also known as red eyes), sore throat, headache, muscle or joint pain, different types of skin rash, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, chills or dizziness.

covid RTPCR Swab Test for diagnosis of Covid-19 at Dhankawadi center. (Express Photo by Pavan Khengre)

Symptoms of severe COVID-19 disease include:

Shortness of breath, loss of appetite, confusion, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, high temperature (above 38 °C)

Other less common symptoms are:

Irritability, confusion, reduced consciousness (sometimes associated with seizures), anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

More severe and rare neurological complications such as strokes, brain inflammation, delirium and nerve damage are also seen in some cases. “People of all ages who experience fever and/or cough associated with difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, or loss of speech or movement should seek medical care immediately,” WHO states.

Among those who develop symptoms, most (about 80 per cent) recover without needing hospital treatment. About 15 per cent become seriously ill and require oxygen, and five per cent become critically ill and need intensive care. Notably, Covid-19 survivors are at an increased risk of conditions such as heart attacks, irregular heart rhythm, clotting in the lungs, breathing difficulty, fatigue, pain and anxiety as compared to those who haven’t had the infection, shows an analysis of electronic health records of 63.4 million people recently released by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Treatment

The current guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare state that almost all cases with mild Covid-19 can be managed with symptomatic treatment. “This means paracetamol for fever, decongestants for congestion, and cough syrup for cough. It can also be managed without doing too many investigations. So there is no role of doing blanket CT scans or blood tests or X-Rays for every individual that comes in with Covid-19. These patients can be managed just the way other viral fevers are managed with symptomatic treatment without doing too many investigations or no investigations at all,” asserted Dr Trupti Gilada, infectious disease specialist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.

mask wearing Time to start wearing masks again (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

How to stay safe?

Stay safe by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, especially when distancing cannot be maintained, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds and close contact, regularly cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue. Check local advice where you live and work, WHO suggests.

WHO also states that masks are “a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives”. They “should be used as part of a comprehensive ‘Do it all!’ Approach including physical distancing, avoiding crowded, closed and close-contact settings, good ventilation, cleaning hands, covering sneezes and coughs, and more. Depending on the type, masks can be used for either protection of healthy persons or to prevent onward transmission”.

WHO states masks must be worn in “areas where the virus is circulating”, and in “crowded settings”, where you “can’t be at least 1 meter from others, and in rooms with poor or unknown ventilation. It’s not always easy to determine the quality of ventilation, which depends on the rate of air change, recirculation and outdoor fresh air. So if you have any doubts, it’s safer to simply wear a mask”.

Other points to keep in mind:

1. Always clean your hands before and after using a mask, and before touching it while wearing it.
2. Along with wearing a mask, maintain a physical distance from others as much as possible. Wearing a mask does not mean you can have close contact with people.
3. For indoor public settings such as busy shopping centres, religious buildings, restaurants, schools and public transport, you should wear a mask if you cannot maintain physical distance from others.
4. If a visitor comes to your home who is not a member of the household, wear a mask if you cannot maintain a physical distance or the ventilation is poor.
5. When outside, wear a mask if you cannot maintain physical distance from others. Some examples are busy markets, crowded streets and bus stops.

Vaccination and resurgence

“People say what is the use of getting Covid vaccine Because we know someone who had taken the vaccine but still got COVID-19. I want to reiterate that you can still get the virus but it will lessen the incision of the virus,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director, AIIMS Delhi, in a virtual address to ANI.

Even after being vaccinated one should continue to follow the Covid-19 protocol and wear masks. “The vaccine prevents you from getting the disease in the form of severe illness. It may not prevent you from getting the infection. Important to understand that even after the vaccine we may have a positive report, it is why important to wear a mask even after the vaccine.”

Agreed Dr Bipin Jibhkate, Consultant critical care medicine, and ICU director Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road and said that even after getting jabbed one must maintain social distance, sanitise hands, avoid being around sick people, limit visitors at home, and keep the immune system strong by eating a well-balanced diet inclusive of all the vital nutrients. “Try to disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home. Do not send children to school if they are sick. Exercise at home instead of going to a crowded park. Remember that getting vaccinated can protect you and the people around you. So, take boosters without fail,” Dr Jibhkate said.

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