Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic

For the past few thousand years, we in South Asia have been greeting each other by touching our own hands together in a respectful Ayubowan or Namasthe greeting rather than touching or kissing or hugging each other.

We have been taught to wash our hands frequently, especially before meals – and we have been cremating our dead rather than burying dead bodies.

Was it as a result of an ancient pandemic in our part of the world that happened in the distant past that all these good habits (the “safety precautions” currently being advocated to curtail the spread of the dangerous COVID19 pandemic) became part of our culture for millenia?

We will never know.

But what we do know is that the dangerous Coronavirus pandemic which has affected the entire world, has been relatively well controlled in Sri Lanka – thus far.

The COVID-19 virus (named thus from the acronym for ‘COronaVIrus-2019) has been responsible for a dangerous infectious disease of the human airways and lungs. This Coronavirus family of viruses causes many respiratory infections – for example the common cold, the SARS epidemic of 2003 and the MERS epidemic of 2012.

Originating, we believe, in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province late in 2019, COVID-9 spread rapidly throughout the world and has now infected and killed many thousands of people all over the world, notably in China, the US, Italy and Spain.

This virus is transmitted by tiny particles of moisture (called droplets) coughed or sneezed out by someone harbouring it (even if that person, termed an asymptomatic carrier, does not show any signs of the disease). These virus-containing droplets can be inhaled by other people and infect their airways.  Air contaminated by the sneeze or cough of an infected person teems with viruses. The germs can also be transmitted from the hands of an infected person who coughs into their hands and then touches you. Objects such as door knobs, lift buttons or supermarket trolleys, if touched by an infected person, can then transmit the virus to others.

Viruses in moisture droplets can survive for varying periods of time. The virulent COVID19 virus can survive outside the body from 3 to 72 hours depending on the surface on which it lands. While a patient harbouring the influenza virus will infect on average one other person every day, people carrying COVID-19 will infect as many as three people per day!

Unlike the common pneumonias caused by bacteria (which respond to antibiotics) COVID-19 pneumonia, resulting from a virus (against which we have no antibiotics) cannot be cured by any of our current medications. All that can be done for a person with COVID-19 pneumonia is to intubate them and nurse them in an Intensive Care Unit using a ventilator that breathes for them until their body naturally recovers from the infection.

The good news about COVID 19 is that about 80% of people who get the virus recover without needing any special treatment. The bad news is that about one person in six becomes seriously ill and develops severe difficulty in breathing due to the virus going down into their lungs and causing pneumonia.

People over 65 and those with pre-existing diseases like diabetes, heart disease and emphysema are at serious risk of suffering serious COVID-19 infection.

The typical symptoms which indicate that you may have COVID-9 are HIGH FEVER, FATIGUE, PERSISTENT DRY COUGH and BREATHLESSNESS. However it must be noted that

  1.  You could have some of the above symptoms WITHOUT having COVID-19 infection
  2. You can harbour the COVID-19 virus WITHOUT displaying any of these symptoms

So what can we do in the current situation?

  • Practise Social Distancing by keeping at least 1.5 metres away from other people – this is more than the distance droplets can travel.
  • Don’t shake hands, touch or hug others – physical greetings transmit germs!
  • Wash your hands with soap and water OFTEN
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow (NOT your open palm!) when you cough

Curing COVID-19 infection is not easy.

The best way of treating the condition is to prevent yourself catching it.

One comment on “Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. rtman@optusnet.com.au
    May 7, 2020

    Thank you, Sanjiva.

    A concise, informative and instructive explanation of the virus, telling it like it is without all the hysterical, panic-inducing bumpf that is whizzing around cyberspace these days.

    Kind regards,

    Roger.

Comments are closed.

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