Coronavirus FAQs: Disease-related questions

Since its outbreak in Wuhan, the coronavirus, termed as Covid-19 (earlier 2019-nCoV), has caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of infected cases globally, the majority being in China. Here’re answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the coronavirus disease and all that you need to know.

Here’re answers to some of the most frequently asked questions and all that you need to know about the coronavirus disease.

Coronavirus is not a single virus, but a family of at least 23 related viruses, further subdivided into four groups. Till date, just six of the coronaviruses are known to infect humans, including the MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. The new 2019-nCov is a new form of the coronavirus capable of infecting humans.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease-2019) is the official name assigned to the novel coronavirus disease under commonly agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organisation for Animal Health, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN. It was earlier being called 2019-nCoV.

Coronaviruses are highly contagious and can spread from person to person. Some coronaviruses are found only in animals but may evolve to cause infection in humans. Such viruses are called zoonotic.

Coronaviruses normally cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract infection. The symptoms are mostly similar to common flu such as headache, runny nose, cough, fever and sore throat. In some people with compromised immunity, infants, and elderly people, it can cause lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

One of the most severe complications in patients infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is pneumonia in both lungs.

Coronavirus attacks the respiratory tract through the nasal passage and shows signs and symptoms similar to common flu after the incubation period of about three days. The incubation period is up to 14 days. A study by Chinese researchers led by Nan-Shan Zhong, an epidemiologist and pulmonologist who discovered the SARS coronavirus in 2003, however found that the incubation period can be up to 24 days.

R0 is a basic reproduction number that refers to a contagious individual who can infect other people when exposed to a susceptible population. It determines the infecting capability of the disease. The R0 for coronavirus is approximately 2.2, which is considered high for the disease. It is, however, not the only parameter to be considered to measure the intensity of an outbreak.

Elderly people with underlying conditions are at the most risk of getting coronavirus infection. Many of those infected with the 2019-nCoV died due to multi-organ failure not directly because of the virus but due to the impact and shock that the virus caused on the body generally. Many patients can, therefore, survive if provided with adequate support and care.

The COVID-19 has claimed more than a thousand lives globally after its outbreak in Wuhan, China. The disease, although, can’t be termed as deadly based on the current death toll, the intensity may increase before a treatment is available.

Ebola virus disease was a global epidemic that emerged between 2013 and 2016. It has an average fatality rate of about 50%, whereas the fatality rate of the 2019-nCoV epidemic is less than 3%.

Approximately 80% of the reported COVID-19 cases have mild disease, 15% have severe disease, mostly pneumonia that requires hospitalisation, and between 3% and 5% will need intensive care.

Yes, according to Tan Chorh Chuan, Chief Health Scientist in Singapore, the likelihood of survival of coronavirus is more indoor than outdoor. People should, therefore, switch off air-conditioner and breathe in fresh air to reduce the risk of infection, advised Tan Chorh Chuan.

The exact way in which the COVID-19 virus affects children is unknown. Reports of children being diagnosed with the disease, however, have emerged although no fatalities have been reported.