The novel coronavirus, which is officially called Covid-19 by the World Health Organization just recently, is a completely new virus that causes a respiratory illness to those who are affected. It’s a member of the coronavirus family alongside the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, specifically in the Huanan seafood wholesale market where live animal trade is present. Due to how quickly the virus can get transmitted from one person to another, it has already infected thousands of people (mostly in China) and claimed the lives of at least a hundred victims.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus, ways you can possibly prevent yourself from getting infected, and several treatment methods some doctors claimed can help.
Symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus
The novel coronavirus exhibits the same symptoms as any other upper respiratory infection. However, compared to other forms of infection, these symptoms tend to set in usually around two to four days after getting infected with the coronavirus, with an incubation period reaching up to 24 days according to recent research.
Some of the common symptoms of a possible coronavirus infection are as follows:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
Compared to the rhinovirus, which is another cause of the common cold, it’s not easy to cultivate the human coronavirus in laboratories. Therefore, researchers are having a hard time gauging its impact on public health and national economies.
This means that even if you get a lab test to check for the presence of a coronavirus after catching a cold, there’s actually no reason to. This is because the results won’t change how you can treat your symptoms which will normally go away after several days.
On the other hand, if the infection spreads to your lower respiratory tract, it can lead to pneumonia. This is a major health risk especially for people who have heart disease and those with weak immune systems like the elderly and babies.
Since there’s no official treatment for killing the novel coronavirus, the best option you have is to prevent from getting infected in the first place. Here are some of the tips you can follow to keep yourself safe and protected from a Covid-19 infection:
1. If you’ve been to China, mainly the Hubei province, in the past 14 days, the best idea is to isolate yourself for 14 days from the date you departed from Hubei. This means that you have to limit your contact with other persons and make sure to stay at home. On the other hand, you have to contact your local public health authority within 24 hours after arriving in your country.
You can follow these steps to limit your contact with others:
- Don’t allow visitors from entering your house
- Don’t go into public gatherings or any other crowded places
- Avoid taking public transit
- Avoid interacting with individuals who have weakened immune systems, older adults, and those with chronic conditions
2. If you have a cough, fever, or breathing difficulty, make sure to inform your doctor right away. Even if you don’t have any travel history to China, these three conditions can be due to a respiratory infection or perhaps another serious condition, and the 2019-nCoV might just be one of them.
3. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. This is especially important after going to the bathroom.
4. Make sure to disinfect touched objects as well as surfaces with the help of a regular household cleaning spray.
5. If you’re experiencing a fever, it’s best to stay home. Ideally, wear a mask to cover your nose and prevent passing the sickness to others.
6. As a general precaution, make sure to observe general hygiene measures when going to animal product markets or wet markets. After touching animal products, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water. Also, avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes with your hands.
7. Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products in order to avoid cross-contamination.
8. When you cough or sneeze, make sure to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. After that, make sure to discard the tissue immediately then disinfect your hands with alcohol or at least an alcohol-based sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
9. It’s not really necessary to wear a mask if you’re inside your house. However, if you have to go outside, make sure to wear at least a surgical mask.
Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
With the emergence of the novel coronavirus, the CDC has been closely monitoring the outbreak of respiratory illnesses due to the virus. However, even though the immediate risk of the virus worsening in areas outside of China is fairly low, you can do your part in responding to this public health threat.
As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:
- Getting a flu vaccine and even taking flu antivirals when prescribed by your doctor to help prevent germs from spreading.
- Contact your healthcare provider if you have contact with someone who’s possibly infected with the virus and has shown symptoms. It’s best to tell them the symptoms you’re experiencing and your exposure to an infected patient.
- If you own a business, you can follow the CDC’s interim guidance on how you can reduce the risk of spreading the illness in your company in the event of a sick employee.
- If you’re a healthcare provider who provides medical care and services to a 2019-nCoV patient, make sure to follow infection control procedures to keep yourself safe.
Possible Treatment Options
As of now, there’s no official treatment for dealing with a novel coronavirus infection. However, there have been some medical claims made by a number of medical professionals that they believe will work in dealing with the infection. Apart from that, some also shared their plans on how to possibly treat the disease.
By far, the following treatments that have claims of being effective are as follows:
1. Repurposing Antivirals
According to Professor Stephen Morse of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, there have been quite a few effective antivirals until recently. This is especially true for specific viruses that use RNA as their genetic material instead of DNA, as is the case with the novel coronavirus and HIV.
However, that’s going to change soon. With the successful development of effective HIV antivirals, it might be possible to create a cure for the 2019-nCoV. The problem, however, is that the development of such a drug will take a lot of time and resources. Therefore, the best option would be to look for possible existing drugs to repurpose.
This has been the case with a 35-year-old man who was the first-ever victim of the novel coronavirus in the US. He was reportedly administered an antiviral drug known as remdesivir which was designed to deal with Ebola. According to the report which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the drug was given after pursuing a “compassionate use” that allows investigational antiviral therapy to be used during emergency situations.
Accordingly, the patient didn’t show any side effects after taking the drug. The report also added that the patient’s clinical condition has significantly improved, with all symptoms gone except for his cough which is slowly starting to slow down.
2. Using a Cocktail of Drugs
Oseltamivir, which is an antiviral drug designed for dealing with influenza, can be combined with Lopinavir and Ritonavir, anti-HIV drugs, to deal with coronavirus. This has been after a successful case of reducing the viral loads of infected patients in the Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.
According to them, the “cocktail of drugs” has improved the condition of various infected patients, including a Chinese woman who came from Wuhan with a positive case of the coronavirus, in just within 48 hours.
Lung specialist Kriangska Atipornwanich of the Rajavithi Hospital told reports that even though the cocktail isn’t the cure, it was able to result in significant improvements in their patients’ condition after administering. Though the results are doing good so far, they still need to perform further tests and studies in order to determine whether it can be a standard treatment or not.
3. Providing Supportive Care
There’s no specific drug to specifically kill the coronavirus yet. Therefore, doctors aim to provide infected patients with what’s known as supportive care as much as possible. According to Dr. Laura Evans of the University of Washington, supportive care would mean doing what’s possible to keep the vital organs and systems of their patients functioning.
Providing adequate oxygen supply is crucial, especially if the infected patient has a lung ailment. At the end of the day, they revealed that it will most likely depend on the patient’s immune system to fight off the infection. Their role as doctors will be to help them in keeping up those vitals.
4. Using a Subunit Vaccine
Clover Biopharmaceuticals, which is a global research-based biotechnology company, has managed to develop a subunit vaccine with the use of its patented Trimer-Tag© technology in the hopes of creating a possible vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
According to Clover Biopharmaceuticals, the newly developed S-Trimer will hopefully be able to prove effective in containing the novel coronavirus and any other future outbreaks that are similar to the Covid-19. The candidate vaccine will be available around 6-8 weeks after a series of pre-clinical studies is conducted.
5. Using Chloroquine Phosphate
According to Tongfang Kontafarma Holdings, chloroquine phosphate, a medicine specifically formulated for the treatment of malaria, has shown to have a “certain curative effect” after testing it for dealing with the novel coronavirus.
The company has cited the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, stating it was prompted to resume the production of the pharmaceutical ingredient despite the lockdown of facilities in an effort to somehow find a working treatment for the virus.
Also, deputy director Sun Yanrong of the Department of Biotechnology in the Ministry of Science and Technology stated in a press conference that there have been a number of achievements in choosing potentially effective drugs for treating the coronavirus. Among those drugs she mentioned include favipiravir, certain traditional Chinese medicines, and chloroquine phosphate.
6. Using HIV Protease Inhibitors
Ascletis Pharma, which is based in China, believes that protease inhibitors can be effective for dealing with the novel coronavirus. They have made this statement after finding that the 2019-nCoV and HIV proteases showed structural similarities.
Apart from that, Ascletis cited that one infected patient has experienced significant improvements after taking Kaletra. However, the company is still awaiting approval from the National Medical Products Administration after filing an application on January 25. They hope that the use of ritonavir alone or combined with ASC09 can help treat the novel coronavirus infection.
Another protease inhibitor in the form of Kaletra, likewise known as Aluvia, was also recommended by a Chinese national health program for dealing with the infection. The therapy has long been approved two decades ago for dealing with HIV.
Around $2 million worth of the drug was donated by the Chicago-based biopharmaceutical company Abbvie to China as an “experimental option”. As we speak, several randomized clinical trials are already conducted in hospitals in Wuhan to figure out whether Kaletra will work or not.
The Bottom Line
Since there’s no FDA-approved treatment for the novel coronavirus yet, it’s highly encouraged by health organizations to observe proper hygiene and follow preventative measures to reduce the risk of contracting the illness. Meanwhile, for people who were already infected, they will be treated with supportive care to ensure their vitals are stable.
For now, the only best options are prevention and boosting one’s immune system. Hopefully, bio-pharmaceutical companies can come up with an effective cure for the virus, but there’s no telling when that exact date might be.