COVID-19: 6 Tips From an Expert on Protecting Against The Virus
How can India’s healthcare systems protect us from coronavirus?
Before there was Delhi, there was Kerala. With 16 confirmed case in Delhi and some schools in Noida shut for fumigation, widespread panic has set in. But earlier in February the first three confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported in Kerala. All three were students who were studying in Wuhan and tested positive after reaching India. They were quarantined and have now successfully recovered and have been discharged. What can Delhi learn from the places the virus has already attacked on mitigating the health crisis?
Dr Sumit Ray, Senior Consultant, Critical Care Medicine tells FIT,
“Kerala has efficient public health systems. The most important thing to do is to isolate, quarantine and track patient contacts. These are important public health measures.”
When the coronavirus first hit China, the country shut down multiple cities and millions went into a lock down mode. Dr Ray says, “I’m not suggesting going the extreme China way yet since we have far fewer cases, but their quick isolation methods worked. Initially, it has to be very aggressive quarantine for close contacts and the suspected patient itself.”
1. Don’t Panic!
“It is important to know that COVID-19 is not that dangerous, yes its worrying, but the data has revealed that the fatality rate is around 2% as more milder cases are coming forward. It may even drop further once more testing is done,” adds Dr Ray.
It’s important to not panic, and turn the collective worry into vigilance.
“Yes it is worrying, but don’t panic it is not that dangerous. Let’s not be fatalistic.”Dr Sumit Ray
How does this compare to the Swine Flu epidemic in 2009 that caused a similar scare?
“See, the first year or two seasons is always more dangerous as people haven't built up their resistance. For Swine Flu, the first two seasons the fatality was about 0.2 to 0.4% but it has reduced significantly,” says Dr Ray.
One of the worries then is not the fatality rate but rather the large spread. The light at the end of this dark tunnel is that when more people get an infection, individual and herd immunity builds up.
2. Masks Not That Effective
FIT reported on how masks are not necessary and especially not the N-95 mask that we all scrambled to get during pollution season.
“See, the N-95 is effective only if it is the right fit,” adds Dr Ray. You have to go through a fit test before wearing the N-95. This is a hard mask to wear as well, because one has to keep removing it. “Even we as doctors don’t always wear this, only if we are in close contact with an infected person - someone with pneumonia.”
“ You only need the mask if you are in close contact with an infected person. Coronavirus spreads through infected droplets.”
3. Self-Isolate if Required: It’s Up to Us to Stay Safe
Beyond public health measures, it’s vital that the public stays vigilant and aware. It’s on us to take the required precautions to mitigate the virus.
“An infected person or even an unwell person should not be going out and about in public places or public transport.”
Self-isolation can be done to nip this in the bud.
Now, in a country as large as ours and with people requiring to go out for jobs and the like, it is extremely difficult to self-quarantine. Nikita Mishra wrote about the ghost roads of Hong Kong, but such a scenario seems unlikely in bustling India.
But what we can do is follow personal hygiene and wash our hands with soap thoroughly for 20 seconds. And if you’re tired about singing the birthday song as a self-timer, here are a few more suggestions:
Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan, Director at Center For Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy told FIT, “ We should practice self-reporting and good hygiene, If we take care of each other as a community, we will be fine.”
4. Good News: COVID-19 Is Likely to Pass in Summer
“Most of these viruses don’t survive in the heat. For sure, we will see a decline in the number of cases in the summer,” says Dr Ray,
This sort of conversation has not happened in the West as they are a while away - almost 2, 3 months - from their summer, he adds.
5. Amp Up Public Healthcare
“Kerala and Tamil Nadu are organised in their health systems to mitigate against this.”Dr Sumit Ray
Often in a crisis, it is the poor and vulnerable who are worst hit. COVID-19 is no different. “It is difficult to ask financially weaker sections to self-quarantine. If the daily wage labourer doesn't go to work, him and his family cannot survive,” says Dr Ray.
The only true way forward is strong public healthcare systems.
6. Stop Fake News!
Beware of disingenuous communication - it is important to trust only verified sources from the ministry of health or WHO, and not Whatsapp forwards.
With people making false claims - like cow urine as a cure - need to be mindful of spreading lies that can really hurt public health.
“The government has to be proactive and aggressive to put down rumours on using unrecognised treatments rather than letting it pass. This creates a false sense of security that is very harmful.”
Additionally, it’s important to share information and keep people updated.
“At the public health level, reporting and communicating between states and regions is important. The good thing is that this virus’ genetic profile has been given by the Chinese so this helps in creating vaccines.”Dr Sumit Ray
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