Corona Virus in India — All you need to know

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

The Corona Virus Disease 2019 — or COVID-19 is a viral infection that infects lungs and causes respiratory issues. The virus has taken a huge toll in many countries like Italy, Iran and Japan, with total confirmed cases globally rising above 300,000.

With a global quarantine going on, it becomes essential to understand what corona is and how it can spell disasters upon India. So, here’s a complete step-by-step guide towards understanding COVID-19 and its impact on India.

What is Corona Virus?

Corona Virus is a virus family that stands out for its structure, which contains spikes around a protein sheet. Corona gets its name from the crown-like shape of these viral spike peplomers (shown in red).

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Neither is this the first Corona Virus discovered nor it is that coronavirus has spread for the first time. Coronavirus family has been known since the 1960s, and the virus mostly hits mammals and birds. The first widespread case of Corona Virus was that of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS. In 2003, the SARS virus had reached to over 2 dozen countries but the situation got under control only after 4 months. Since 2004, there have been very few cases for SARS.

Our main concern, however, is COVID-19. First seen in Wuhan province of China in December 2019, the virus quickly took over China, and is now encapsulating the globe — with over 13,500 fatalities. Coronavirus has been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Corona Virus in India

The first case of Corona Virus in India came from Kerala on 30th January. The student from Kerala who had a travel history from Wuhan experienced coughing, fever and difficulty in breathing. Many more cases all over India that followed along were since confirmed positive, and now out of the 29 states, 23 have confirmed cases.

The total number of cases in India, as confirmed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as of 22nd March 2020 is 324.

The total number of confirmed deaths as of 22nd March 2020 is 5.

The top 5 states with most cases are:

● Maharashtra

● Kerala

● Delhi

● Rajasthan

● Haryana

The cases have shown an exponential increase, with a pending fear that the growth may follow the same trend.

Understanding exponential growth:

The cases in India have shown a rapid increasing nature with more cases being tested positive each day. Here is the graph of Indian cases from the first case (January 30th) to the present day:

Source. The graph has very sharp growth.

This constantly increasing graph shows that more cases are on the way and we should be prepared. The growth rate here can get out of hand and overwhelm the Indian medical sector capabilities quick. That’s why we need to take preventive measures to “flatten the curve”, as we will see later.

Analysing the Trend:

India is in Stage 2 of the pandemic. As the total number of deaths confirmed as of 22nd March 2020 is 5, we can calculate an approximate mortality rate. The mortality rate based “officially” on data is somewhere between 1.7–1.5%. This number seems small, but we should keep in mind that there may be many more people who have contracted this disease or may have even died without knowing that the Corona Virus exists. In a country like India, it becomes a huge problem. India has a huge population, with many without adequate education and self-awareness regarding this issue. The number of people not diagnosed also plays a huge part, since people aren’t self-isolating and we do NOT have enough testing equipment. Like most of the countries in the world, we are overwhelmed by the cases to medical facility ratio.

It is important to note that the 324 cases are just the ones that have been able to go to a hospital with a testing facility and got the chance of being tested and treated. That is the problem without even considering the ignorance in this area. Ignorance regarding Corona is a much bigger problem than perceived.

Hence, we simply cannot rely just on official data.

Testing:

Photo by Christine Sandu on Unsplash

This is where the real complexity of the issue emerges. The Ministry of Health with IDSP (The Central Disease Surveillance Unit) and NCDC (National Disease Control Experts) have created a plan against Corona. The National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune is helping over 15 labs where one can test Corona. As of 19th March, 72 state-run labs were ready to perform tests. Though tests centres have now increased, the testing has been very limited.

A detailed list of labs is given here.

Thankfully, ICMR has put a cap of maximum 4500/- Rupees per testing sample. This includes Rs 1500/- for screening test for suspected cases and Rs 3000/- for confirmation. ICMR encourages free testing if possible.

Remember that there are no vaccines for Corona, and it would take at least 18 months to make one.

India is being criticized for its low level of testing. Alas, the main problem with testing is that we do not have enough equipment to test more people. ICMR has conducted random testing of samples for Corona, and so far they have found no cases of community transmission. So, the tests are majorly performed on people with travel history. The biggest issue lies here:

The basic assumption is that the diseases are not yet transmitted via community, i.e. the people with local travel history.

So, doctors may not give enough attention to many people who have contracted the disease even if they have not travelled abroad, because of the sheer magnitude of cases who have a global travel history. No one is to be blamed here, as we have already reached our healthcare saturation point. There is a need for time and testing equipment, which is why we need to act collectively to flatten the curve.

The Curve and why we need to flatten it:

Corona is spreading rapidly in India, and pandemics are very, very hard to stop. It is impossible to shut it down. However, we can flatten the exponential curve we saw earlier.

The general aim of flattening is:

If we reduce the spread now, we could lighten the load on our medical system, decreasing the mortality rate because people will be treated better.

In other words, we need to postpone the outspread of the virus, so that even if more people are infected, they do so over a longer period, giving more space to the doctors for treatment. Here is an illustration of how the curve flattens:

Source

Countries like South Korea, China have shown that this is possible. But we need to do more. To flatten the curve, we need to work together and follow some serious steps.

What we need to do

Social Distancing:

This is the most important part of the whole process. Look at the cases in Hubei, Wuhan that was the epicentre of Corona.

Source

You can see how a mandatory lockdown bought the instances of new cases down swiftly (The grey curve in the semi-yellow and yellow region). By quarantining, they changed the shape of the graph. This means that as soon as contact eliminates, so does the spread. Hence, it is important to self-isolate and promote others to do so. Spread the word about Janta Curfew. And go outside only if it is necessary.

When someone sneezes, maintain at least 2 meters of distance from the cougher. This will make the droplets containing potential virus fall on the ground, not you. A paper has shown that surfaces like metal, glass or plastic can contain the virus for over 9 days. But with an ethanol-based solution, the virus can be deactivated substantially. So, Do not touch frequently touched objects, and sanitize them if possible.

Wash your hands!

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

The NYT graphics here show how the coronavirus spreads. As seen, the lipids/proteins layer breaks down when it meets the hydrophilic ends of the soap. So, wash your hands as much as possible, for at least 20 seconds. This eliminates the prospects of the virus to enter your body. Cleansing is important, and especially important after touching objects like window grills, staircase railings and even toilet flushes. Keep a sanitizer with you, everywhere. Look at every surface with suspicion, and share sanitizer with people (by dropping some on their hands, not handing them the bottles).

Don’t spread Misinformation

From Tik-Toks claiming that onions can cure the virus to news-channels showing how corona was predicted 10,000 years ago, there’s a lot of misinformation. Beware of misinformation. Look at everything with a rational eye. If you aren’t sure about your symptoms, better Google and see. If you need official stats, have a look at the ICMR website. Don’t be a part of Whatsapp University. One pandemic at a time, please.

Summary and Conclusion (TL; DR)

If 1500 words were too much for your appetite, go through the following bullets:

● COVID-19 is a coronavirus that is very contagious and very dangerous.

● Over 80% of cases of Corona are mild.

● The number of cases in India is growing exponentially fast.

● The official data may not be completely right.

● Testing capabilities in India are limited, so be patient — it might just be a 4-day flu.

● If the disease persists, call corona help-line +91–11–23978046.

● Maintain a social distance of at least about 1–2 meters.

Self-Isolate

Wash your hands

Don’t spread misinformation.

There is a good chance that a country like India can be very affected by the virus, but we need to comply with our government and doctors. Be safe and stay home. Wear masks, only when required. Don’t hoard, share if you have excess. If possible, donate money to charities working hard. And just… be a good human, and let your education and sense of responsibility take over your ignorance; I bet you’ll be fine!

Consider sharing this to spread the word!

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