India is now the second worst country affected by the coronavirus pandemic. And even while the lockdown is slowly easing, taking precautionary measures and being aware of the ways of coronavirus transmission is of utmost importance. In one of its recent IGTV’s, the World Health Organization shared information about how SARS-CoV-2 or the novel coronavirus infect us and how the body reacts to it. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 and infectious disease epidemiologist, WHO, explains how this virus moves from one individual to another, when it transmits and where this transmission is taking place.
How the virus spreads
- “The virus can be spread by droplets or little particles of liquid that come out of your nose and mouth, when you talk, cough, sing, or are in close proximity to someone else,” she explains.
- The virus can be larger or smaller in size. The larger droplets tend to drop more quickly, while the smaller droplets can remain suspended in the air for slightly longer.
- The virus spreads or infects others when an infected person gets those droplets into someone else’s eyes, nose or mouth.
- The virus can also spread through contaminated surfaces. “If somebody is infected and they have the virus in these droplets, it can fall onto different surfaces. If someone touches those surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose and mouth, they can infect themselves, if they haven’t washed their hands” Dr Kerkhove informs.,
The good news, however, is that if you wash your hands and if you keep physically distanced from people, you can prevent that from happening.
When coronavirus spreads
It is known that people can spread coronavirus when they don’t have symptoms. This means that one can be infected with the virus and not yet have developed symptoms. They can pass the virus when they do have symptoms as well.
“It appears that most people are most infectious at or around the time they develop symptoms. This includes a few days before they actually get sick or start to feel unwell,” Dr Kerkhove informs.
What role does immunity play?
When an individual is infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus, they develop an immune response, Dr Kerkhove says and adds, “It usually takes a week or two, and sometimes may be longer for the body to develop antibodies. These antibodies protect against reinfection.”
How strong that protection is and how long that protection lasts, depending on the type of infection (asymptomatic, mild or severe) one has, is something that is yet to be found. “We do expect people who have been infected with the virus to develop an immune response.”
Cases of reinfection
Speaking of cases of reinfection, when somebody develops an immune response, they have these antibodies that last for a certain amount of time. “We need to understand how long those antibodies last, when those antibodies are present, that will protect against reinfection. If those antibodies wane over time, it may be possible that somebody could be reinfected again.”