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The second wave of COVID-19 already started. Now we have to take more precautions. At CPP under Corporate Responsibility, we are doing awareness programs and health camps across rural India. As part of the awareness program, we are posting COVID-19 educational articles via our blog and Social Media also we are distributing educational booklets physical copies through NGOs. 

Covid: Why is coronavirus such a threat?

A simple virus has brought life as we know it to a screeching halt.

We have faced viral threats before, including pandemics, yet the world does not shut down for every new infection or flu season.

So what is it about this coronavirus? What are the quirks of its biology that pose a unique threat to our bodies and our lives?

Master of deception

In the early stages of an infection, the virus is able to deceive the body.

Coronavirus can be running rampant in our lungs and airways and yet our immune system thinks everything is a-ok.

"This virus is brilliant, it allows you to have a viral factory in your nose and feel completely well," says Prof Paul Lehner from the University of Cambridge.

Our body's cells start releasing chemicals - called interferons - once they are being hijacked by a virus and this is a warning signal to the rest of the body and the immune system.

But the coronavirus has an "amazing capability" of switching off this chemical warning, Prof Lehner says, "it does it so well you don't even know you're ill".

He says when you look at infected cells in the laboratory you cannot tell they have been infected and yet tests show they are "screaming with the virus" and this is just one of the "joker cards" the virus can play.

It behaves like a 'hit and runs' killer

The amount of virus in our body begins to peak the day before we begin to get sick.

But it takes at least a week before Covid progresses to the point where people need hospital treatment.

"This is a really brilliant evolutionary tactic - you don't go to bed, you go out and have a good time," says Prof Lehner.

So the virus is like a dangerous driver fleeing the scene - the virus has moved on to the next victim long before we either recover or die.

In stark terms, "the virus doesn't care" if you die, says Prof Lehner, "this is a hit and runs virus".

This is a massive contrast with the original Sars-coronavirus, back in 2002. It was most infectious days after people became ill, so they were easy to isolate.

It's new, so our bodies are unprepared

Remember the last pandemic? In 2009 there were huge fears about H1N1, aka swine flu.

However, it turned out to be no way near as deadly as anticipated because older people already had some protection. The new strain was similar enough to some that had been encountered in the past.

There are four other human coronaviruses, which cause common cold symptoms.

Prof Tracy Hussell from the University of Manchester said: "This is a new one, so we don't think there's much prior immunity there."

The newness of Sars-CoV-2, to give it the official name, she says, can be "quite a shock to your immune system".

This lack of prior protection is comparable to when Europeans took smallpox with them to the New World, with deadly consequences.

Building an immune defense from scratch is a real problem for older people, as their immune system is slow off the mark.

Learning to fight a new infection involves a lot of trial and error from the immune system.

But in older age we produce a less diverse pool of T-cells - a core component of the immune system - so it is harder to find ones that can defend against Coronavirus.

It does peculiar and unexpected things to the body

Covid starts off as lung disease (even there it does strange and unusual things) and can affect the whole body.

Prof Mauro Giacca, from King's College London, says many aspects of Covid are "unique" to the disease, indeed "it is different from any other common viral disease".

He says the virus does more than simply kill lung cells, it corrupts them too. Cells have been seen fusing together into massive and malfunctioning cells - called syncytia - that seem to stick around.

And Prof Giacca says you can have "complete regeneration" of the lungs after severe flu, but "this does not happen" with Covid.

"It is quite a peculiar infection," he said.

Blood clotting also goes strangely awry in Covid, with stories of doctors unable to get a line into a patient because it is immediately blocked with clotted blood.

Clotting chemicals in the blood are "200%, 300%, 400% higher" than normal in some Covid patients, says Prof Beverly Hunt from King's College London.

She told Inside Health: "Quite honestly, in a very long career, I've never seen any group of patients with such sticky blood."

These whole-body effects could be due to the cellular doorway the virus strolls through to infect our cells - called the ACE2 receptor. It is found throughout the body including in blood vessels, the liver, and kidneys, as well as the lungs.

The virus can cause runaway inflammation in some patients, making the immune system go into overdrive, with damaging consequences for the rest of the body.

And we're fatter than we should be

Covid is worse if you are obese, as a generous waistline increases the risk of needing intensive care, or death.

This is unusual.

"It's a very strong association with obesity is something we haven't seen with other viral infections. With other lung injuries, obese people often do better rather than worse," said Prof Sir Stephen O'Rahilly, from the University of Cambridge.

"It looks pretty specific [to Covid] it probably happens in pandemic flu, but not regular flu."

Fat deposited throughout the body, in organs like the liver, causes a metabolic disturbance that seems to combine badly with coronavirus.

Obese patients are more likely to have higher levels of inflammation in the body and proteins that can lead to clotting.

-James Gallagher, BBC Health and science correspondent


How to Care for Your Face Mask

Now that many areas are recommending wearing non-medical face masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus that’s led to the global pandemic — you might have bought or made face masks or coverings for yourself and your family. Here’s how to care for them, with tips.
How many face masks do I need?

It’s a good idea to have at least two. This way, you will have a fresh mask if one is in the wash.

Consider your schedule and your lifestyle. Ideally, you’re staying at home most of the time. But you will want a clean mask whenever you go someplace where maintaining consistent physical distancing (at least 6 feet away from others) might be a challenge, including:

  • A trip to the grocery store.
  • A ride on public transportation.
  • A visit to your doctor.
  • Close interactions with others while you’re on the job if you are an essential employee.

When is it safe to take my mask off?

Keep your mask on until you have finished your trip, errand, or work shift. You can remove it outside, once you are away from others, or in your car on your way home. Don’t forget to bring your mask inside to be cleaned. If you wait to take your mask off until you have returned home, it may be easier to put it directly into the laundry.

What’s the best way to take off (doff) a face mask?

  1. Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Don’t touch the front of the mask or your face.
  3. Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom ones first, then the top ones.
  4. If your mask has filters, remove them and throw them away. Fold the mask and put it directly into the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering.
  5. Clean your hands again.

FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES TO PROPERLY WEAR YOUR FACE MASK

illustration of hand washing

Wash your hands before and after touching the mask.

illustration of a hand holding a mask by the strap

Touch only the bands or ties when putting on and taking off your mask.

illustration of a woman wearing a mask properly covering her face

Make sure the mask fits to cover your nose, mouth, and chin. If you adjust the mask to cover those areas, wash your hands before and after.

illustration of an older woman talking while wearing a mask

Make sure you can breathe and talk comfortably through your mask.

illustration of a washing machine

Wash reusable masks after each use. If the mask is disposable, discard it when visibly soiled or damaged.

TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS, AVOID THESE COMMON MASK-WEARING MISTAKES

Icon showing types of ineffective masks

We do not recommend wearing bandanas, gaiters, masks with exhalation valves or clear shield-like face masks* as face coverings.

illustration of a man touching his mask when he isn't supposed to

Don’t touch your or your child’s mask while it is being worn.

illustration of a man incorrectly wearing his mask under his chin

Don’t wear the mask under your chin with your nose and mouth exposed.

illustration of a woman incorrectly wearing a mask with her nose and chin exposed

Don’t leave your nose or mouth uncovered.

A man removing his mask in public

Don’t remove the mask while around others in public.

illustration of someone handing a used mask to someone else

Don’t share your mask with family members or friends.

-----------Tips Guided by Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H.-----------

USEFUL LINKS:

Indian Gov: https://www.mygov.in/covid-19/

WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

USA: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

UK: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Austrailia: https://www.health.gov.au/

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