Medically reviewed by Dr. Shunmukha Priya, Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition
The new strain of Coronavirus outbreak that was first identified in Wuhan, China, has put the world in high alert.
According to CNN’s latest reports, 231 people have died so far and over 9,709 cases were confirmed in mainland China. Adding to this, more than 60 million people are under partial/full lockdown in China in order to prevent further spreading of the infection.
Outside of China, the virus was identified in several countries including the US, France, Japan Australia, Canada, Thailand and now in India too.
Kerala has reported a case of the new Coronavirus in a student who had returned from Wuhan. The patient is now quarantined in Thrissur General Hospital.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are common viruses that cause infection in sinuses, upper throat and nose. Human Coronavirus is also responsible for the common cold.
Though most viruses are not dangerous, some types are serious like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which are rare.
While SARS (CoV) killed 774 people in the year 2003, MERS (CoV) killed around 858 people in the year 2012.
The WHO termed the Coronaviruses as ‘Zoonotic’, meaning, the Coronavirus infection was transmitted from animals to humans.
On December 31st, 2019, Chinese authorities reported pneumonia-like disease among 44 people in Wuhan without any known cause to the World Health Organisation.
A new virus was identified by the Chinese officials on January 7th, 2020. It was revealed that this new virus belongs to the Coronavirus family. Since this new strain was not previously identified among the humans, it was dubbed as the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
This new strain of the virus is akin to the SARS and MERS – both are deadly and killed hundreds in the past. This Novel Coronavirus has also killed hundreds in just a month after the breakout. The virus is also challenging to contain. These factors make the Novel Coronavirus deadly and dangerous.
It is worth mentioning that like SARS and MERS, the 2019-nCoV is Betacoronavirus. This means, the virus first appeared in bats. Some reports have also suggested that the virus may have originated from a wet market in Wuhan. However, this is only a speculation and no one knows how the virus passed to humans. 
Causes of Corona virus
The Corona virus infection is contagious and airborne and can easily spread from one human to another human.
The infection spreads through;
- Air – sneezing and coughing.
- Having personal contact with people who are having the infection like shaking their hands or touching them.
- Touching your nose, mouth or eyes after touching an infected person or surfaces with the Coronavirus on it.
- The infection rarely spreads through faeces.
The Coronavirus can infect anyone. However, children are more susceptible to it and therefore they should be taken better care to prevent them from catching the infection.
Symptoms of Coronavirus
Mild to moderate Coronavirus infection exhibits symptoms like the common cold.
The general symptoms are,
- Sore throat
- A general feeling of illness
- Cough and sneeze
- Runny nose
- Breathing difficulties
In severe cases, Coronavirus can cause SARS, MERS, bronchitis, kidney failure, pneumonia and even death.
The symptoms of severe Coronavirus infection are;
- Cough with mucus
- Shortness of breath
- In case of pneumonia, fever temperature can be high
- Tightness in chest or chest pain when coughing or breathing
People who have lung and heart disease are more susceptible to developing severe infections.
There is no particular treatment or cure for Coronavirus and treating the symptoms usually helps the infected person to recover. Well, as the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure” any day.
Taking simple measures will prevent you from catching or spreading the infection.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap or hand wash for 20 seconds at the least.
- While sneezing or coughing, cover your mouth using a tissue. Discard the tissue immediately and wash your hands.
- Clean the place that you frequently use. Wipe and disinfect the surfaces as often as possible.
- Don’t touch your mouth, nose or face with unwashed hands.
- Stay away from people who are sick and infected unless you’re a healthcare professional or close family member. In this case, cover your nose and hands.
- If you are infected, quarantine yourself.
While the above prevention methods are recommended for common Coronavirus, the WHO has issued public advice to prevent catching/spreading the current Novel Coronavirus.
- If you experience fever, cold or cough, contact your healthcare provider immediately and share your travel history.
- Avoid visiting live markets or if you are visiting one, don’t touch live animals without covering your hands and nose.
- Avoid the consumption of undercooked/raw meat.
- Handle meat, milk and animal products with care to prevent cross-contamination with other uncooked or undercooked foods.
There are no standard treatments for Coronavirus infection as mentioned above and treating the symptoms will help recover. People who have developed common Coronavirus infection will recuperate by themselves usually.
To relieve the symptoms, you can follow the below suggestions:
- Take fever or pain medications.
- Hot showers or drink hot water/soups to relieve cough sore throat.
- Drink enough water.
- Rest well and quarantine yourself to prevent the spreading of infection.
The above recommendations are only if you have a common or mild Coronavirus infection.
If you think you have a severe infection, it is highly recommended that you visit your doctor immediately.
1. Boosting immunity
The body’s first line of defence against Coronavirus infection is strengthening your immunity and good lifestyle habits will help you bolster it. Below are some tips to build immunity in a healthy way.
2. Quit smoking
Smoking causes severe respiratory diseases and it can also invite other infections. If you are a heavy smoker, reduce the frequency and gradually try to quit. This way, you will not only strengthen your immunity, but you will also keep infections at bay.
3. Eat healthy foods
One cannot have a healthy immune system by eating junk foods. To strengthen your immunity, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They are loaded with micronutrients and antioxidants.
Certain vitamins and minerals are very essential for a healthy immune system. Eat foods that are loaded in zinc, vitamin A, C, E, folate, iron and selenium. Also, get adequate vitamin D to bolster your immunity.
4. Indulge in exercising
Believe it or not, exercising can keep cold and flu and bay. Exercising may flush out bacteria from the lungs. Likewise, increased body temperature may fight infections better.
5. Maintain a healthy body weight
It is a known fact that unhealthy body weight is bad for the immune system and can make it susceptible to infections. Maintaining a healthy body weight with a healthy diet and exercise will boost your body metabolism and immune system. This will, in turn, help you fight infections and keep the flu at bay.
6. Limit alcohol consumption
Studies have revealed that heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of catching infections. Alcohol affects the immune system and can make the drinker susceptible to infections pneumonia. Therefore, to reduce the risk of catching Coronavirus, limit alcohol.
7. Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep can again make you susceptible to cold or flu – which is also caused by Coronaviruses. Sleep is very crucial for the immune system. Sleeplessness can increase the stress levels which will suppress your immune system. To strengthen immunity, sleep for a minimum of 7 to 8 hours.
Every year, novel viruses are cropping up and now, bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant. Scientists are scrambling to discover vaccines and antibiotics to tackle the new viruses including the Novel Coronavirus. And sadly, most of the viruses do not have any cure or vaccination at the moment.
The best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe is by practising healthy and hygienic habits. Pay extra attention to your surroundings and take the extra step to keep yourself and your surroundings clean. Also, invest in healthy eating and living. This will definitely help you keep flu and infections at bay.