Explained: Is Re-infection of Coronavirus Possible?
For now, the ICMR is focusing on increasing lab capacities and discovering more about this novel virus.
It’s all anyone is talking about these days - and with good reason! The novel coronavirus and the ensuing disease, COVID-19, is spreading throughout the world, with shutdowns of schools and community gatherings, and health workers scrambling to contain it.
As it stands right now, on Saturday 14 March, India has a total of 86 positive cases, with 2 deaths and 10 people among the 86 have recovered and been discharged since.
Many questions and rumours are swirling around, like if drinking water religiously every 15 minutes will cure the virus (It won't, we checked.) India’s doctors and researchers are mitigating the spread and with 10 people recovering there is much to be hopeful about.
But should you be worried about re-infection with the novel coronavirus once you are cured?
FIT spoke to Dr Nivedita Gupta of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to find out more.
Dr Gupta said that there was much about the virus that is still unknown, and as of now, “There is insufficient data on the novel coronavirus to comment on the possibility of re-infection.”
It is an evolving situation, with a moving target says the ICMR, so definite answers like this are impossible - for now.
It’s a stressful time, especially when we are encountering a never-before-seen virus. But researchers at the ICMR added that they are working in conjunction with doctors globally to flatten the curve and slow down the spread.
“The possibility of re-infection cannot be ruled out, but it is too preliminary to tell,” said Dr Gupta.
For now, the top priority, said Dr Gupta, is that the virus has to be contained.
ICMR is focussing on increasing lab testing capacities beyond the current 51 labs that are operational to speed up accurate testing. Faster testing means faster identifying of infected persons, which means the subsequent isolation and treatment of patients and their primary contacts all to help improve the situation.
One of the key ways to help doctors (and the rest of us!) stay safe during this time is the much-mentioned act of social distancing.
“Especially people who are coming from abroad need to self-isolate for 14 days. If they turn out to be asymptomatic then it is okay, but they show any symptoms - even mild- they should come in for a check-up. It is a huge window of opportunity to help determine accurate cases and contain the virus.”Dr Balram Bhargava, Director-General at the Indian Council of Medical Research
Social distancing needs to be enacted by everyone who can - this includes working from home if possible, and staying indoors and avoiding crowded areas. On Saturday, 14 March, Prime Minister Modi took to twitter to share the health ministry's guidelines on home quarantine.
Dr Bhargava added that “If we all take precautions and practice containment for the next 30 days, we will be at a good place to avoid community transmission.”
So while health workers focusing on increasing capacities and treatments and researchers work towards a vaccine, we can focus on stopping the spread through self-quarantining and generally being mindful of our health.
Once this spread is under control and with more time passing, doctors say more will be known about this virus - including worries about re-infection.
But for now - stay home and get checked if you feel ill!
(With inputs from PTI)
(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter Now.