What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus (ICD10) is a family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. The new coronavirus agent was discovered on the 31th December 2019 after cases registered in China. It causes the disease called coronavirus (COVID-19).

Most people are infected with common coronaviruses throughout their lives, with young children being more likely to become infected with the most common type of virus. The most common coronaviruses that infect humans are the alpha coronavirus 229E and NL63 and beta coronavirus OC43, HKU1.

The incubation period is the time it takes for the first symptoms to show since the infection by coronavirus, which can vary from 2 to 14 days.

In general, the transmission occurs only as long as symptoms last. Transmission may occur after symptoms go away, but the transmissibility period duration is unknown for the coronavirus. During incubation period and asymptomatic cases are not contagious.

What are the types of coronavirus?

Types of coronavirus known to date are:

  • Alpha coronavirus 229E and NL63.
  • Beta coronavirus OC43 and HKU1.
  • SARS-CoV (causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS).
  • MERS-CoV (causing Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS).
  • SARS-CoV-2: a new type of coronavirus agent virus, called the coronavirus, which appeared in China on December 31, 2019.

How is the coronavirus transmitted?

Investigation on how transmission of the coronavirus takes place are still ongoing, but virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, that is, contamination happens by respiratory droplets or contact. Anyone who are in close contact (within about 1 meter) with someone with respiratory symptoms is at risk of being exposed to the infection.

It is important to note that person to person spread can occur continuously.

Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while others are less. It is not clear yet on how easily the coronavirus spreads from person to person.

Despite this, the transmission of coronaviruses usually occurs through the air or through personal contact with contaminated secretions, such as:

  • Saliva droplets;
  • sneeze;
  • cough;
  • phlegm;
  • close person-to-person contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
  • contact with contaminated objects or surfaces, followed by contact with the mouth, nose or eyes.

Coronavirus show less transmission rate compared to the flu virus.

The average incubation period for coronavirus is 5 days, with longer periods that can reach 12 days, period for the first symptoms to show after the infection.

How is coronavirus diagnosed?

The coronavirus is diagnosed by finding evidence of the virus in respiratory samples collected by aspiration of the airways or sputum induction. It is necessary to collect two samples in case of suspected coronavirus.

Both samples will be urgently sent to the Central Public Health Laboratory (Lacen).

One of the samples will be sent to the National Influenza Center (NIC) and  the other will be sent for metagenomic analysis.

To diagnose the disease, it is necessary to perform molecular biology tests to detect viral RNA. The diagnosis of the coronavirus is made with sample collection, which is indicated whenever a suspected case is identified.

The collection of nasopharyngeal aspirate (ANF) or combined swabs (nasal/oral) or a sample of lower respiratory secretion (sputum or tracheal lavage or lavage bronchial lavage) is recommended.

How is coronavirus treated?

There is no specific treatment for infections caused by human coronavirus. Rest and consumption of plenty of water are indicated, in addition to some measures to relieve symptoms, according to each case, such as:

  • Use of medication for pain and fever (antipyretics and analgesics).
  • Use of a humidifier in the bedroom or a hot shower to help relieve pain from sore throat and coughing.

As soon as the first symptoms appear, it is essential to seek immediate medical help to confirm the diagnosis and start the treatment.

All patients who are discharged during the first 7 days after the first symptoms (independent of fever), should be alerted to the possibility of late worsening of clinical conditions and warning signs of complications such as: fever (there may be initial cases without fever), increase or reappearance of fever or respiratory signs, tachycardia (increased heart beat rate), pleuritic pain (chest pain), fatigue (tiredness) and dyspnea (shortness of breath).

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Coronavirus symptoms are mainly respiratory, similar to a cold. They can also cause infection of the lower respiratory tract, such as pneumonia. However, the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) still needs further studies and investigation to better characterize the symptoms of the disease.

The main symptoms known to date are:

  • Difficulty breathing.

How to prevent coronavirus?

The Health Ministry provides basic care guidelines to reduce the overall risk of contracting or transmitting acute respiratory infections, including the coronavirus. Among the measures are:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, respecting the 5 moments of hygiene. If there is no soap and water available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home during sickness period.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue and discard it.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently objects and surfaces.

Health professionals should use standard precautions measures, for contact and droplet (surgical mask, gloves, non-sterile apron and goggles).