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January 28, 2020

Pakistan still on safer side

Islamabad

January 28, 2020

Islamabad : Coronaviruses were firstly discovered in 1960s and were considered to infect both the animals and humans having the transmission modes like that of all common cold viruses including contact of droplets with an infected patient who is either sneezing or coughing or touching the hands or face of an infected patient or through contact with things like doorknobs touched by a patient.

For health care providers, the transmission of illness associated with coronavirus is close contact with patients via unprotected patient’s care and therefore many cases can be seen among the family members of patients or in health care settings however with no patient of the disease in Pakistan so far, the population here is on safer side but awareness among public is a must to avoid infection and panic.

Associate Professor of Microbiology at Al-Nafees Medical College Islamabad Dr Humaira Zafar expressed this while talking to ‘The News’. She added coronaviruses were named in view of their crown shape and the peak seasons for acquiring infection are the fall, winters and early spring, however it can be seen throughout the year.

Any age group individuals can be infected, but the severity of infection is considered more in infants, young children and elderly people. The reservoirs for transmission include bats, pigs, camels, raccoons, snakes, and humans. But yet, a lot has to be discovered for exactly identifying the cause, she said.

The Coronaviruses harbor seven human strains based upon variation in molecular characterization that is Human Coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E), Human Coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), Human Coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63, New Haven coronavirus), Human Coronavirus HKU1, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also called as Wuhan coronavirus.

According to Professor Humaira, most of Coronaviruses usually cause mild self limited infection of sinuses, nose, throat and middle ear while some strains like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-Co-V) and Wuhan coronavirus can cause severe respiratory infection harboring high mortality rate of about 35 per cent.

Pneumonia is a common symptom but not always present and in complicated cases, the ventilator support can only be the life saving option. Amongst the list of gastro intestinal symptoms, diarrhea can be seen. Talking about any type of symptom, the intensity will be severe in elderly people, patients having weak immune system, or the ones having underlying chronic diseases like chronic lung, renal disease, cancer, cardio pulmonary diseases and diabetes, she explained.

She added the emerging issue getting global attention is with novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) whose cases were discovered from China and the presence was endorsed by WHO in early Januray 2020, when cluster of pneumonia cases were detected from Wuhan city, Hubei Province of China.

It is important that the Chinese government in collaboration with WHO is on the high alert for an incident management system for public health but with over 2800 cases and 80 deaths, the illnesses associated with coronavirus have emerged as a greater threat in the world.

Dr. Humaira said so far, Pakistan is on the safer side from the said infection but since there is no vaccine or specific treatment available for Corona viral infection, so in case of common cold or flu taking good rest, plenty of fluids, hot beverages and anti pyretics, can be the safer ways to get early recovery.

However, for accurate diagnostic option for polymerization chain reaction (PCR), even the good laboratories of Pakistan are deficient with the facilities. Therefore, supportive management based upon patient’s condition will be the option, she said.

She added the preventive options include hygienic practices of hand washing before and after touching the animals especially while visiting the farms, markets or places where dromedary camels and other animals are present. Avoiding direct contact with sick animals in farms can also be a good preventive option. Besides that consumption of properly boiled camel’s milk, and cooked meat should be preferred while covering mouth and nose while when is coughing and sneezing can prevent spread of the infection. Within the healthcare facilities, the infection control practices should be followed.