Covid: An Apocalypse?

The spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is becoming unstoppable and has already reached the necessary epidemiological criteria for it to be declared a pandemic.

How many people have been affected?

We’re only 3 months into a new year and it has been an unmitigated disaster thus far. When the Coronavirus scare began, no one assumed it would bring the world to its knees.

As of 23 March, more than 341,000 people have been infected in more than 150 countries. There have been over 14,700 deaths globally. Just over 3,000 of those deaths have occurred in mainland China, where the coronavirus was first recorded in the city of Wuhan. Italy has been hardest hit, though, with over 5,476 fatalities. Many of those who have died had underlying health conditions, which the coronavirus complicated.India reporting its first novel Coronavirus case on January 30 this year, has seen a steady increase in number of Covid-19 infections. The number of cases has now gone to 415. Maharashtra has maximum number of Coronavirus cases followed by Kerala. UT of Jammu and Kashmir has 4 cases so far .

The virus

Coronaviruses (CoV), so named for their “crown-like” appearance, are a large family of RNA viruses that spread from animals to humans and include diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19 is a zoonotic virus. Since the COVID-19 virus has a genome identity of 96% to a bat SARS-like coronavirus and 86%-92% to a pangolin SARS-like coronavirus, an animal source for COVID-19 is highly likely. This was corroborated by the high number of RT-PCR positive environmental samples taken from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China.

 “In a way, we are facilitating the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.” The irrational destruction of forests and wildlife habitats have meant that man is coming into close contact with animals and viruses themselves are constantly mutating to survive. One wonders if man will learn anything from this.

Incubation Period

Time from exposure to the virus to development of symptoms. 2 to 5 days, in some cases up to 14 days .


COVID-19 is transmitted via droplets and fomites during close unprotected contact between an infector and infectee. Human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus is largely occurring in families and among Health care workers.

Why Quarantine?

Quarantine is derived from an Italian word meaning 40 days, during the Plague epidemic any ship that came to Italy remained docked in for 40 days. Since, this is a novel virus, all of us are susceptible to it and have not developed immunity for the same .

We constantly see reports of people evading checking at airports, patients escaping quarantine and people brazenly partying despite requests not to do so. This is just plain folly. Even though the mortality rate is 3 to 5%. 3% of 1,000 people seems small but 3% of 200,000 is massive.

Even if you’re young and you get infected, you will probably survive but you might need to be hospitalized if your symptoms worsen. There are already people whose immunity is low – people like organ transplant recipients, patients with serious illnesses like cancer and the elderly. If you don’t take care, the hospital will be forced to choose between which people to save, which is what is happening in Italy.

Differentiating  Clinical Features

Nature is trying to tell us something but we are simply not listening ….

Since 2000, have had 3 outbreaks – SARS, MERS and Ebola. One would have thought that the lessons from these outbreaks would have taught us something .No one knows what the future holds. While the hope is that this will be contained in a few months, the fall out has already begun and it is catastrophic to say the least.

Till then, we can do our bit by adhering to the prevention and control measures  by adopting

 •    Infection prevention and control  measures in various health care settings

•             Effectiveness of entry and exit screening

•             Effectiveness of the public health control measures and their socio-economic impact by

•             Restriction of movement

•             Social distancing

•             School and workplace closures

•             Wearing mask in general public

•             Mandatory quarantine

•             Voluntary quarantine with active surveillance

•             Hand Hygiene

It is a social responsibility to prevent its spread. By being alert, you may be saving your own grandparents and other senior citizens who are vulnerable to death from COVID. Facing the pandemic, is not what happened matters, it is how we respond. Request all  to –

             Declare if you are having fever /cough. Take 15 days leave.

             Do not hide travel details

             Avoid all gatherings (functions, meetings, prayers, markets)

             Cancel trips

             I still see people coughing and sneezing. You may be a having a mild form. And you may be well to go around with COVID. Please cover your face when coughing /sneezing with tissues and dispose them in a closed bin.

PS: In times like these, it’s imperative that you get your information from the right sources like the WHO website and not encourage rumors. “A pandemic will lead to permanent social, economic, and cultural changes. The key is to create good from a bad situation.”

Dr. Ilham Iqbal is Consulting Doctor at Help Saba Cancer Charitable Trust.