Respiratory Infections What Should We Know

  • July 04,2023

World has always been traumatised with resurgence of Pandemics due to various respiratory infections. We have known them as Swine flu pandemic or present ongoing epidemic of Wuhan Coronavirus. As of now Wuhan coronavirus has infected more than 10000 persons with death toll increasing upto 213. As a non related person to medical field what our responsibilities are and how we can protect ourselves and help community in dealing with such kind of epidemics is important. Most common causative agents causing these epidemics are viruses and if we talk related to present wuhan epidemic its a coronavirus. Coronaviridae are enveloped RNA viruses and the Betacoronavirus sub species is the  one responsible for present threat.

These viruses have short lives but to survive further they need a host which can come from a single or multiple species. The present Wuhan novel Coronavirus 2019 appears to be infecting both  bats and humans. So we are assuming that bats acted as a reservoir, where the infection is survived, for further transmission to humans. Generally such cross infection of viruses among different species, need a major structural and genetic change in the evolution of virus which may happen for its benefit. Once the infection starts in humans it spreads from person to person via droplet infection (spreading aerosols while coughing or sneezing) or it can spread through contact with the secretions of an infected person (foamite born spread). After reaching a normal healthy host, virus quickly attaches to the respiratory lining (any where from mucosa of nose till airways) and starts multiplying. During this phase, person can be asymptomatic but quite capable of spreading the virus further and this phase of initial development of infection is called Incubation Phase. It varies from 2-14 days in Wuhan Coronavirus. This poses a challenge for containing the disease as its completely unpredictable who can be carrying the infection, while only lead being a Confirmed contact with infected person. This method is called as contact Tracing which helps in identifying potential persons who can develop infection and during initial phase of epidemic such active Contact Tracing can help in early containment of disease to limited persons.  

Then comes the symptomatic phase when a person can develop symptoms. It’s quite confusing to diagnose specific viral infection from symptoms as all viral infections present with similar symptoms. The Wuhan Virus has presented with Fever, Sore Throat, Cough, Body Aches, Breathing Difficulty and Breathlessness on exertion. So virtually any person with viral infection can be suspected to carry Wuhan virus on the basis of symptoms. Further diagnostic testing which confirms the diagnosis is required in suspected candidates. Samples in the form of nasal secretions, nasal swab , throat swab, sputum or endoscopic lung lavage are taken and sent for genetic analysis called PCR. PCR confirms the presence of virus in the patient thus confirming diagnosis. 

Patients suffering from Wuhan virus can run different course of illnesses from being mild to the serious form of infection needing admission or ICU care.  

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