COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis. With almost all countries struggling to fight it to the best of their abilities and the medical community working round-the-clock to find a cure and/or vaccine, people are worried about catching the infection and spreading it to their loved ones. Being a new virus, we still do not know how it spreads or what precautions can effectively keep the virus away. Currently, most countries are trying to follow the social distancing norms, wearing face masks, and washing hands regularly to keep people safe. However, understanding how the virus can spread can help us take further precautionary measures and win this fight against COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a communicable disease
One thing that we know for sure is that COVID-19 is a communicable disease. This means that it can spread from one person to another in different ways. Think of it like the common cold or flu virus. If one person in your vicinity catches the flu, you are at risk of getting infected too. However, every virus has different mechanisms for surviving and spreading.
Being a communicable disease, if you come in contact with a person infected with the virus, then you carry the risk of catching the infection. However, can it spread through surfaces or food or in any other manner apart from human contact?
Here are some common questions asked by people regarding the spread of COVID-19:
Q1. How can I identify an individual infected with COVID-19?
The common symptoms of the novel Coronavirus infection are dry cough, fever, difficulty in breathing, etc. However, these are also symptoms of various other common diseases. Further, in many cases (around 25-50%), the infected individual does not display any symptoms at all. These are called asymptomatic cases where the individual is also unaware that he is carrying the virus. Hence, it is exceedingly difficult to identify an infected person.
Q2. Apart from coming in contact with an infected person, are there other ways in which I can getinfected?
Yes. If an infected individual touches his eyes, nose, or mouth and then touches any object or surface, then you can get infected if you touch the same object or surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. While researchers are still analyzing the time that the virus can stay alive on different surfaces, here is what we know so far:
- Cloth – up to two days
- Paper or tissue paper – up to three hours
- Wooden surfaces – up to two days
- Glass surfaces – up to four days
- Paper money – up to four days
- Plastic – up to seven days
- Stainless steel – up to seven days
- Cardboard – up to 24 hours
It is important to remember that the life of the virus also depends on the humidity and temperature of where you are. However, the virus has been found to survive on the above-mentioned surfaces. Also, there are no documented cases that ascertain how likely is anyone to get infected when in contact with these surfaces that have the COVID-19 virus.
Q3. Can the virus survive in the air (without any surface)?
Yes. Studies have suggested that the novel Coronavirus can survive in the air for up to three hours. So, imagine an infected person in a room without a mask while you were not there and left. If you enter within three hours and breathe in the air, then you can be at risk of contracting the infection. Think of it like the common cold or flu virus.
Q4. Can I get infected through water or food?
No. There is no study confirming that the virus can spread through water or food. However, when you buy groceries, ensure that you wash them well along with your hands.
Precautions and safety measures
As you can see, the medical community is trying to identify the ways in which the novel Coronavirus can spread. Based on their observations, they recommend a few precautions that each of us must follow:
- Wear a face mask
- Keep your hands clean. Wash them with soap and water frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Maintain a distance of at least six feet from people
While these precautions can keep you safe, you must also be prepared to manage the medical costs in the unfortunate event of you or a loved one getting infected. In India, the treatment costs for COVID-19 can go up to ₹5-6 lakhs (without ventilator support) and ₹10-12 lakhs (with ventilator support). This is a huge amount, especially during times when businesses are shut, and many people have lost their jobs or facing salary cuts.
Hence, it is important to have a medical insurance policy to help you meet these unexpected costs if they ever arise. The IRDAI has mandated insurers offering health insurance in India to include COVID-19 in the regular medical policies. Leading insurers in India like Tata AIG are offering special COVID-19 health coverages to help you tackle the financial burden of a COVID-related hospitalization and treatment.
We understand the fear and uncertainty surrounding the novel Coronavirus since there are many rumours circulating on social media platforms. Hence, always ensure that you verify the information before believing it. Follow the precautions specified by the authorities and get a health insurance policy for medical exigencies.