The last few weeks have been characterized by a growing focus on new coronavirus infection. The spread of the virus, together with the increase in cases all over the world and in particular in Italy. Have created panic and alarm. Coronavirus infection is in many cases similar to the flu. But in a percentage of individuals, it can cause serious lung complications, which can in some cases lead to death.
The current epidemic is due to a virus belonging to the coronavirus family. So-called because of the characteristic coronet shape visible under the microscope. These are viruses common in many animal species; in some cases, they can evolve and infect humans and therefore spread among the population. The new coronavirus is a strain of coronavirus that had never been identified in humans. The new coronavirus, first named 2019-nCoV, was later renamed SARS-CoV-2 for its familiarity with the SARS virus, responsible for a 2009 epidemic.
The epidemic is a zoonosis, that is, caused by the transmission of the virus from animal to man. The epicenter of the epidemic has been identified in a fish and live animal market in Wuanan, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, now closed.
Although the animal that acted as a reservoir for the coronavirus has not been identified with certainty, scientists speculate that it may be a mammal such as a pangolin (whose scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine) or the bat.
The virus, which in most cases involves symptoms similar to those of the best known seasonal flu, mainly affects the lungs.
The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, sore throat, breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause viral pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure.
People with immune deficiencies and pre-existing chronic clinical conditions, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, liver disease, cancer patients and the elderly, more susceptible to severe forms, are more at risk of complications.
How is the infection transmitted?
The virus is transmitted through the micro-droplets of saliva, which the infected person can emit with a cough or sneezing, or even simply by speaking, or by touching the mouth, nose or eyes with contaminated hands.
To prevent viral infections, and that from coronavirus, in particular, the same recommendations used for influenza apply. In this case, the virus appears to be particularly contagious and rapidly spread, this is because it is a new virus, against which no human being has antibodies. The criticality is also due to the non-availability, to date, of specific antiviral therapies or a vaccine.
In mild cases, the disease appears to run like normal flu. Severe cases are treated with supportive therapies, such as antifebrile, hydration and in severe cases with mechanical breathing support.
In practice what to do to prevent infection?
Beyond compliance with the provisions regarding coexistence in public places. And meeting places issued by the authorities, avoid direct contact with people who cough, sneeze or have a fever. In general, keep a safety distance of at least one meter. In the case of coughing or sneezing use paper tissues as a cover. Which will be thrown immediately (in a closed basket, or in the toilet). Alternatively, cover your face not with your hands but with the crook of your elbow.
The hands are in fact one of the main vehicles of contagion. For this, they must be washed very frequently. Among the recommendations of the health authorities also that of avoiding touching the nose, eyes, and mouth with the hands.
Soap and water are sufficient to ensure proper hand hygiene. In case of need, when you are away from home or in the absence of soap and water, you can use alcohol-based gel, with an alcohol concentration of at least 60%.
In this case, proper hand hygiene requires at least 30-40 seconds; remember that in this case, the hands must be dry, otherwise, the product is not effective. If, on the other hand, soap and water are used, keep in mind that at least 40-60 seconds are necessary for the mechanical removal of viruses and bacteria.
Hygiene of the environments
Among the recommendations of the health authorities to prevent the spread of the virus also the sanitation of environments and surfaces: handles, telephones, car steering wheel … It seems that the virus can survive on the surfaces for a few hours. The use of disinfectants containing 75% alcohol (ethanol) or 1% chlorine-based (bleach) is able to kill the virus by canceling its ability to infect people. Among the commercially available products, there is also Pumilene Vapo disinfectant spray.
The panic following the spread of the coronavirus infection meant that the supplies of masks in the pharmacies were exhausted in a short time. But are they really needed? Experts recommend the use of specific masks, equipped with a particular filter, to healthcare professionals.
As for the ordinary citizen, WHO recommends the use of the mask to people who have come into contact with the virus. As a tool to prevent its spread to others, but not as a defense tool.
If they are to be worn, they must be well adherent to the face, so as to cover the nose, mouth and chin, that they are not touched during use and that they are removed but not touched, and then thrown into a closed basket. Then wash your hands.
Take care of your immune defenses
A strong and healthy organism is more resistant to attack by pathogens. The state of the immune defenses, therefore, plays an important role also towards coronavirus infection.
Also in this phase, it is therefore important to follow a good diet, not to neglect sleep, to try a physical activity, better outdoors, and if possible not to subject the body to excessive stress.
It is also now known that a healthy intestine is of help to the immune system: the intestinal microbiome, that is, the set of microorganisms that populate each individual’s intestine, in fact, influences the immune response. In fact, in the intestine most – about 70% – of the cells that make up the immune system reside. This organ is covered with lymphoid stations, called Peyer plaques, which are real white blood cell factories. In the intestine, there is a high production of T Helper Lymphocytes which play the role of “sentinels”, capable of alerting our immune system of a possible viral, bacterial and parasitic infection. (1-2)
If the bacterial flora is in balance, the immune system is also an effective barrier against attack by viruses and bacteria.
On the contrary, the presence of an imbalance, i.e. a dysbiosis, indicates a state of alteration of the intestinal bacterial flora, with consequences both on individual well-being and on the efficiency of the immune defenses.
Taking probiotics, through diet or with a specific supplement, can, therefore, help both in the preventive phase, and if you contract an infection, as support to fight it, and also in the convalescence phase.
According to the information available so far, people affected by the infection, who have not presented complications, seem to heal within a few days. Like any flu syndrome, however, the organism can be proven by virosis; also in the following phase, it is, therefore, useful to observe some rules concerning adequate rest, to give the body time to recover, a varied diet rich in vitamins and minerals, correct hydration.
The B vitamins are very important: in addition to increasing the production of antibodies and therefore resistance to infections, they act on the nervous system, favor the transformation of the nutrients taken with food into energy to be used and are indicated both to strengthen the defenses body, both for periods of convalescence. Equally useful for the efficiency of the immune system are vitamins C, D, and E.
As for the minerals in the diet, there must be magnesium. And potassium helps to counteract tiredness and fatigue, the iron essential to transport oxygen in the body, and zinc which plays a key role in promoting the immune response. Help in this regard can also come from specific food supplements, such as Briovitase Sostegno.
The Ministry of Health and the Istituto Superiore di Sanita, in collaboration with the State-Regions Conference and with various professional associations. Have created a decalogue to promote correct information on the behaviors to follow to prevent coronavirus infection :
1. Wash your hands often
2. Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections
3. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands
4. Cover your mouth and nose if you sneeze or cough
5. Do not take antiviral drugs or antibiotics unless prescribed by your doctor
6. Clean the surfaces with chlorine or alcohol-based disinfectants
7. Use the mask only if you suspect that you are sick or assist sick people
8. Made in China products and parcels received from China are not dangerous
9. Contact the toll-free number 1500 if you have a fever or cough. And have returned from China for less than 14 days
10. Pets do not spread the new coronavirus
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