Riding the COVID-19 storm: India can establish protocols for global community
Coronavirus outbreak: The COVID-19 epidemic is now sweeping across the globe with over 187,000 people in 117 countries affected. The statistics are dumbfounding. In a matter of weeks, we have moved from containment as a goal to slowing the epidemic. What’s fueling such a rapid spread of the disease? Let’s first understand that COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, which most likely spread from bats to humans via an intermediate host.
For the majority of those who fall sick, the symptoms are minor. When infected individuals cough and droplets of saliva and mucus are expelled, the virus gets onto surfaces in the environment. Touching such surfaces and then the face allows the virus to infect the next individual. The basic reproduction rate, R0, of COVID-19 is 2-3, meaning that each infected person can infect 2-3 people.
Despite a low R0, the number of cases globally has been high. This apparent paradox is a result of two key factors. One, the virus has a long incubation period, almost 14 days, during which people do not show symptoms. Second, people who recover shed viruses as long as 20 days after symptoms have subsided. During these periods, they have the potential to infect a number of individuals unknowingly. Extending the isolation period during the recovery phase can halt post-recovery transmission but that alone is not enough. Identifying those who are infected and asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and isolating them early is the most effective way of slowing transmission.