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Coronavirus – A Man Made Disaster?

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A new virus belonging to the Coronavirus family named as novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, has claimed over 1,873 lives in China. The outbreak of the deadly virus is continuing to spread outside China and has also reached India with three confirmed cases so far, in the state of Kerala. In this regard, the state of Kerala has declared the outbreak of this deadly virus as a state disaster and World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (global emergency).

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that are often the source of respiratory infections, including the common cold. Most of the viruses are common among animals, but sometimes, an animal-based coronavirus mutates and successfully finds a human host.
According to the World Health Organization, during previous outbreaks due to other coronaviruses, human-to-human transmission occurred through droplets or objects making contact, suggesting that the transmission mode of the 2019-nCoV can be identical.
The symptoms may include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Antibiotics do not work against such viral pneumonia and there are no vaccines against them. In addition to this, the virus is contagious even during incubation, that is even before a patient exhibits any symptoms. This characteristic amplifies transmissibility. Due to this, travel bans across China are initiated and the literal isolation of Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, has been done.

Coronavirus Outbreak – A Manmade Disaster

Diseases that pass from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases. They are rare. The chief concern with them is that since they are new to humans, the human body does not have any immunity to them. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally, about a billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from zoonoses, i.e, diseases and infections naturally transmitted between people and vertebrate animals. Some 60% of emerging infectious diseases globally are zoonoses. Of the over 30 new human pathogens detected over the last three decades, 75% originated in animals.
Coronavirus is one of them. It is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that was involved in the illegal sale of wildlife. According to WHO, wherever there is close mixing of humans and animals, especially the unregulated handling of blood and other body products, as happens for example in China’s animal markets, there are greater chances of transmission of a virus from animals to humans, and its mutation to adapt to the human body.

Guidelines to Prevent the infection

The WHO and UNICEF have recommended people to do regular handwashing, cover mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, and avoid close contact with anyone suspected of being infected or showing respiratory illness symptoms. People in public places are asked to wear face masks.

India’s response to the outbreak

The Republic Day celebrations in the Indian Embassy in Beijing was called off due to the decision of the Chinese government to cancel all public events. A travel warning has been issued to people who are visiting China. Apart from this, the Ministry of Health has asked for the details of people who have sought Indian visas from Wuhan.
India has also airlifted the citizens who were visiting China or were in Wuhan as students to prevent them from contacting the disease. These people are to be kept in isolation at ITBP facilities for 28 days in order to prevent the disease from spreading further.

Way Forward for India

Infectious diseases including those of the zoonotic variety are on the rise in India. In addition, regions in India suffer from seasonal outbreaks of dengue, malaria and influenza strains. In this context, the nation-wide disease surveillance programme needs to be strengthened in the country. Given the growth potential of India’s biotech sector, it is time to put in place a robust public-private partnership model that can transform the health services sector in the country, covering disease surveillance, diagnostic kit availability and accelerated vaccine development.

CSR Educating People on Coronavirus in India

After three people were tested positive of Corona-virus in Kerala, it was crucial to lend a helping hand to the people of Wayanad district and educate them on the disease outbreak and its symptoms. Keeping this in mind, Aster Volunteers along with DM WIMS, department of Community Medicine conducted a series of massive health education programme in St Joseph’s school, Meppadi district. More than 500 students from Meppadi and nearby villages attended the educational programme on ‘Epidemiology of Coronavirus and its prevention’. In all, 10 sessions were held for the school children to educate them on the outbreak of the coronavirus disease and advisories on measures to protect one’s health and prevent the spread of this outbreak.