Whether it is Asia, Europe or North America- Every continent now, seems to be infected with COVID-19. But what exactly is COVID-19 and how did it come into existence to cause such a mass level destruction. That is a very interesting question. Isn’t it?
Beginning with the history, COVID-19 was first reported in the Wuhan city of Hubei province in China. It is a viral disease (formerly called 2019- nCoV) that is now famously known as an abbreviated word -COVID, with ‘CO’, referring to Corona; ‘VI’ for virus and ‘D’ that stands for disease. This disease is caused by a novel form of coronavirus which is different from its close relatives that causes SARS & MERS.
Since its first detection, COVID-19 has spread to several countries, with China reporting the highest number of fatal cases. It has even reached India, the most populated country after China. According to the latest reports, the cases in India have risen to 73. Most of the confirmed cases belong to the tourists that have travelled into the country from Europe, mainly Italy. The increasing number of cases have caused a disturbance all over the world and on the 11 th March, it was declared a global pandemic by the WHO authorities.
But How exactly the virus spreads?
This disease was first linked to a live animal market, indicating animal to human spread. However, later it was found to be similar to other coronaviruses which generally spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets or through skin contact with the infected patient. The disease originated in Wuhan, which happens to be the most populous city in the Hubei region. The world is under stress as the chances of spreading internationally can increase to many folds with people travelling via one of the busiest international airports.
There are also some myths about the virus being transmitted through other means such as refrigerated frozen food. Although currently there is no evidence to support this claim. It is though possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
So the next question that comes is , how this deadly virus infects the humans.
The virus, being a member of the coronavirus family, is nothing but an enveloped positive sense RNA virus, which is physically characterized by club like spikes that shoots out from its surface. The virus, once inside the human infects the lungs that can cause fever, cough, runny nose and in serious cases, pneumonia.
It will never be sufficient to repeat certain preventive measures for COVID-19. Every attempt must be made to avoid the deadly disease.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Staying home when you are sick.
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then disposing the tissue in the trash.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Using a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19 and also preventing the spread of the disease to others.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The WHO has also shared a guideline mentioning these basic protective measures against the new coronavirus. Even the CDC has strictly advised everyone to follow these precautions to prevent this outbreak from becoming pandemic.
But what to do what if the patient is already showing symptoms for coronavirus?
In such cases, the patients are advised to immediately visit the hospital for their medical examination. The CDC guidelines and WHO suggests collecting the Nasopharyngeal /Oropharyngeal specimens in the Viral Transport Media from the upper respiratory tract before culturing and identifying the Virus with RT-PCR. The nutritionally rich Viral Transport Media (VTM) helps to keep the virus viable till it is received by the hospital for its diagnostic testing.
Now, what exactly is a Viral Transport Medium and what is its role in COVID-19.
The medium’s nutritional components and a balanced pH makes it the ideal culture medium for transporting viruses from a suspected patient’s body to the lab. This universal transport medium consists of a Hanks Balanced Salt Solution that is modified and enriched with bovine serum albumin, cysteine, gelatin, sucrose and glutamic acid. These nutritionally rich ingredients help in maintaining the viability of the coronavirus during its transport. The pH is quenched with buffer HEPES and Phenol red is used as a pH indicator. This medium is also made selective with the addition of Vancomycin, Amphotericin B and Colistin that are used to inhibit the proliferation of competing bacteria and yeasts. The medium is also isotonic and lacks toxicity to the mammalian host cells. The presence of sucrose facilitates the viability of viruses and chlamydia if samples are frozen at -70 ° C for long storage.
The Viral Transport Medium comes with a Nasopharyngeal and/or oropharyngeal swabs which is a complete package for safe and secure carrier. The nasopharyngeal specimen is usually collected by inserting the swab into the patient’s nose to the depth of the nasopharyngeal area (beyond the turbinate) and then gently rubbing it to absorb the secretions. The oropharyngeal specimen, on the other hand, is collected by swabbing the posterior oropharyngeal mucosal membrane. The collection method is instantly followed by immediate placing of the swabs into the separate sterile tubes of VTM. For better recovery, it is recommended to refrigerate the samples at 2 °C to 8 °C or ship overnight to the testing laboratory on ice pack.
Although this disease has taken so many lives, but strictly following the precautions and being well equipped with necessary solutions like VTM kit, would help to control this disease to a larger extent.