Coronavirus hits India: One confirmed case in Kerala, says Centre

Patient stable, under observation in isolation

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Thursday 30 January 2020

The novel coronavirus has reportedly reached Indian shores. The Government of India, in a press release on January 30 afternoon, said one positive case has been reported in Kerala. 

The patient, a student of Wuhan University, is in isolation in a hospital, according to the release. “The patient is stable and is being closely monitored,” it added.

Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja confirmed the news, according to several news reports.

According to the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the common symptoms of this novel coronavirus — 2019-nCoV — have been: 

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • A general feeling of being unwell

The virus can go undetected in healthy people without symptoms.

In Kerala, one person each from Thrissur, Thiruvananthapuram, Pattanamthitta and Malappuram districts as well as three from Ernakulam have been kept in isolation at various hospitals, news agency PTI reported.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has prescribed safe hand and respiratory hygiene and safe food practices among measures to prevent infection. Some experts also prescribe using an N95 mask in high-risk areas.

There is no treatment or vaccine for the virus yet.

Soem experts suggested in a paper published in medical journal the Lancet that lopinavir and ritonavir drugs may be prescribed for suppressing the virus. Both are given to patient with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as they suppress their activities. This, however, doesn't mean coronavirus has anything to do with HIV.

The total number of coronavirus positive cases globally have increased to 7,783, with 170 people dead. Apart from China, at least 20 countries— Unietd Arab Emirates, Finland, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Canada, South Korea, Germany, the United States, Malaysia, Macau, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand — have reported confirmed cases.

The WHO was scheduled to convene a second meeting on January 30 to decide whether a global health emergency needed to be declared. Earlier, on January 23rd, the United Nations health body had decided not to declare so.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on January 29 told reporters that person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus outside China was extremely worrying. “The fact that Germany, Vietnam and Japan have reported human-to-human transmission prompted me to reconvene the meeting,” he said.

Person-to-person spread was restricted to China until even a couple of days ago. All cases reported outside China had histories of travel linked to Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.

Such a spread in other countries leads to local epidemics wherever they happen. In fact, Hong Kong University’s public health department head Gabriel Leung said on January 27 that there were good chances of local epidemics outside Wuhan.

A number of countries, including Japan, France and India, are in process of evacuating their citizens from Wuhan. The US has already done so. Asked to comment on it, the WHO said: “It is decision of sovereign countries. However, they should also prepare plans to prevent importation of cases in their countries.”  Ghebreyesus' apprehension also turned out to be true with Japan reporting three positive cases among those who were evacuated.

Talking about various parameters of the virus said the WHO officials said, “As of now there is two per cent of reported cases have died.. However, it is too early to say as it may rise in coming days.” Regarding how many cases could be asymptomatic, the official said, “While there are confirmed reports of asymptomatic cases but we don’t have full epidemiological information to say how many cases can be dormant.”  The WHO official the infection can spread through air droplets, physical contact and fomites.

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