How to avoid coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are RNA-viruses that are responsible for about 10% to 20% of colds and for epidemics of respiratory diseases that occur approximately every four years. Coronaviruses mainly attack mammals and birds. Their genome is made of RNA. Their name comes from a crown-like shell that is visible around virions in an electron microscope.
Coronaviruses are microbes that cause various types of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections in both humans and animals. The first information about coronaviruses appeared in the 1960s when the pathogen HCoV-229E and HCoV-OC43 were discovered. They cause a cold of mild nature, that ends after a few days.
The deadly version of the virus only appeared in China in 2002. This strain causes severe respiratory failure, known as SARS. According to WHO data, the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003 caused the death of 916 people.
Coronaviruses are RNA viruses. This means that their genome is made up of RNA. Their name comes from a crown-like shell that is visible around virions in an electron microscope.
Among this group, we distinguish three subgroups (B814, 229E and OC43), of which the last two cause epidemics of respiratory infections.
A well-known representative of this group is the previously mentioned SARS virus. The coronaviruses also include MERS-CoV (The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus), which has been detected in more than 40 people since September 2012, half of whom have died.
The first signs of coronavirus infection are usually similar to flu symptoms. There is a high fever, headache, sore throat and cough, exhaustion, lack of appetite.
Coronavirus – how do we get infected?
It is believed that the SARS virus appeared as a result of transmission from bats, although it could also be raccoon dogs. Southeast Asia is the most vulnerable region where SARS occurs.
However, the supposition that the coronavirus source for humans is camels is still valid. Viruses can be located in the urine, faeces and even respiratory secretions and milk of the infected animal. Direct contact with these secretions may result in the transmission of infection.
In some situations, it is possible for a person to become infected in human contact, for example as a result of close contact with sick people or among health care professionals.
The MERS-coV strain of coronavirus is most common in the Middle East:
- Saudi Arabia,
- United Arab Emirates,
What are the symptoms of coronavirus infection?
Infection with coronavirus strains in the form of HCoV-229E and HCoV-OC43 is characterized by a harmless infection, in which typical cold symptoms such as runny nose and sometimes cough appear.
Usually, this condition lasts a maximum of seven days, after which it disappears on its own. However, these pathogens cause much more severe symptoms in young children and the elderly who have impaired immunity. It can cause pneumonia, bronchitis or subglottic laryngitis.
Other disease symptoms occur in people infected with SARS-CoV. The infection begins with a high temperature, which is usually accompanied by diarrhoea, dry cough, muscle and joint pain, headache and shortness of breath. In a certain group of patients, breathing problems may develop towards respiratory failure, which may even result in the patient’s death.
In the beginning, the infection caused by the MERS-CoV virus gives little characteristic symptoms: headache, coughing, high temperature, shortness of breath and muscle pain. Sometimes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach ache. With the development of infection, pneumonia develops that can result in the death of the patient.
Laboratory tests show a high level of lactate dehydrogenase, while radiographic examination shows one or two-sided lesions infiltrate the pleural cavity. The virus is also found in blood, faeces, urine and respiratory secretions.
How to recognize coronavirus infection?
The most important thing is to conduct a medical history with the patient, which should include information on the symptoms and possible travel to areas where the SARS-CoV or Mers-CoV virus occurs. If the patient has had close contact with a sick person in the last ten days he should inform the doctor. To make the final diagnosis, we use:
- Blood test,
- X-ray and chest tomography.
Coronaviruses – treatment
So far, the only effective remedy to fight these dangerous viruses has not been invented. In the treatment of MERS-CoV infection, drugs with unconfirmed effects are used. We are talking about interferon, which in combination with lopinavir and ritonavir is a drug approved for use by HIV-positive people. The choice of this drug is based on experience in the SARS-CoV epidemic.
Unfortunately, vaccines that are effective in human coronavirus infections are not available, but studies to develop SARS-CoV vaccines (inactivated virus, viral proteins, DNA vaccines, chimeric viruses, VLP particles) were conducted in vitro and in vivo. Similar studies have already been started for the MERS-CoV virus.
The following are very important in preventing disease:
- Direct contact with sick people should be avoided,
- Remember about hygiene when breathing, i.e. covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing your nose and mouth (preferably with a disposable tissue or a surgical mask),
- personal hygiene is important, i.e. frequent hand washing,
- when travelling, it is worth carrying antibacterial gel or disposable wipes with the addition of alcohol,
- do not touch the mouth, eyes or nose with dirty hands,
- people travelling to areas where the MERS-CoV virus occurs should carefully study the information posted on the WHO website,
- Avoid contact with both animals and their excrements, especially when travelling.