KARACHI: Given the high risk of transmission the coronavirus carries, health experts have advised people not to panic but exercise caution by strictly adhering to basic protective measures, including hand and respiratory hygiene.

They have also appealed to the people to stay aware of the latest information on the virus outbreak through reliable sources, come forward voluntarily and get themselves tested for the virus if they have had contact with someone who had recently spent time in any coronavirus-affected country.

While the virus has a very low mortality rate and most people who became infected experienced mild illness and recovered, it could be severe for some.

“Make sure you and the people around you follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Reject impression that the virus can spread from pet animals or by eating meat

“Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth may contain virus and if you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets,” says a WHO public advisory.

Respiratory hygiene

The advisory suggests that people avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible, as hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth.

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

“If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Stay home if you feel unwell. Follow the directions of your local health authority,” it says.

About the need for a face mask, doctors say that people only need to wear a mask if they have developed complaints such as coughing and sneezing with fever, which might be due to the coronavirus, or if they are meeting a coronavirus patient.

“It doesn’t make any sense wearing these masks on the road; that’s what [is] currently happening and masks are getting out of stock,” said senior infectious diseases expert Dr Naseem Salahuddin.

According to her, there are two types of masks; a lightweight surgical mask and a bit heavier N-95 mask which filters 95 per cent bacteria and is supposed to be used only by health workers treating patients with highly infectious diseases.

“People can use the lightweight surgical mask when they get an infection or [are] meeting an infected person. If you are wearing a mask you should know how to use it properly; the whiter inside should be kept out and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. Avoid touching the mask while using it,” she said, adding that the mask should be replaced as soon as it damped and discard it in a closed bin.

These masks, she said, were only effective if used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning.

Dr Salahuddin rejected the impression that the virus could spread from pet animals or by eating meat.

“Right now, it’s still under investigation whether a person carrying the virus can infect another person at a time when the virus is in its incubation period,” she said, adding that symptoms appeared in most infected patients within three to five days whereas the maximum incubation period of the virus was 14 days.

According to doctors, there is no scientific basis in information describing garlic and drinking lemon juice as foods with properties to cure coronavirus.

There is no established treatment and vaccine for the virus and experts suggest symptomatic treatment, which meant people should take a paracetamol tablet for fever and a cough syrup for coughing.

Patients with health complications needed extra care.

“These days, people should avoid going to any crowded place. And, as a precautionary step, avoid hugging and hand-shaking,” said Dr Salahuddin.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020