As fear about coronavirus spreads in the city, doctors from the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) assert that taking adequate precaution is the best way to tackle the disease.
WHO precautions for COVID-19 outbreak
Dr J S Thakur from the department of community medicine and school of public health in Chandigarh at PGIMER claims that as of now there is no cure and set treatment for the disease. Therefore, precaution is the best way forward. “The best and most effective precaution is, as WHO has highlighted, wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and make sure to maintain distance from those who are coughing, sneezing or showing any other sign of being sick with some sort of infection,” Thakur says. “Handwashing is 90 per cent of your work done in terms of protecting yourself from the disease.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the best way to stay protected from the virus is to either wash your hands thoroughly with alcohol-based hand rubs or by using soap and water. The WHO also advises people to avoid touching their eyes, nose and ears. Hands pick up viruses which if transferred to our eyes, nose and ears can contaminate our body and make us sick. The organization also asks people to practise good respiratory hygiene by covering one’s mouth and nose with their bent elbow while sneezing or coughing. Alternatively, one can use a tissue to cover their face and dispose of the wet tissue immediately.
“The WHO also advises us to maintain a distance of at least about 3 feet from infected persons. The point is to stay away from infected droplets that might be disseminated by sick people by sneezing and coughing. So try and avoid most cramped and crowded spaces in general because you never know who is sick and infected,” claims Dr Mukesh Kapila, renowned health professional and professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at Manchester University, who was at PGIMER to address a press conference on an upcoming event on digital healthcare.
Use of Masks
The doctors point out that the use of masks by otherwise healthy individuals is not necessary, and is leading to an unnecessary demand and shortage of masks worldwide. “This shortage will deprive those who really need the masks. Masks are to be worn mostly by healthcare professionals and sick individuals so that they do not transfer their infection on to others,” Dr Thakur says.
With the global spread of the epidemic and increasing amount of paranoia in people, the demand for face masks has increased and created a shortage in supply along with a hike in mask prices. “This is happening because healthy individuals are hoarding masks, which is unnecessary,” Dr Thakur adds.
According to Kapila as well, masks are only to be used by sick and infected people. “The reason is that these masks will provide a protective layer and ensure that infected droplets don’t reach others around them. The need is to make sure that infected people don’t spread the virus further,” explains Dr Kapila. He states that most masks, except for the N95 masks, are completely ineffective in terms of curbing the spread of virus. However, there is an acute shortage of N95 masks globally.
Treatment and potential cure
As of now, there is no cure in terms of a pill or a vaccine that can be given to patients. However, symptomatic treatment is administered to patients of the novel coronavirus. “This is what we are doing in our wards as well. For example, if a patient has fever, we give them paracetamol. It is all about carefully monitoring the patients and giving them symptomatic relief until the body builds immunity to the virus on its own,” Dr Thakur says.
In terms of the pattern observed regarding COVID 19 by global healthcare professionals, it has been reported that the virus affects older people and people with already compromised immunity systems more drastically than others. “Trends have been identified about the effect the virus has, but there is still a lot to study regarding the pattern of infection, and the ways in which this particular strain of virus has evolved,” Dr Kapila says.
Furthermore, the doctor adds that immunity in patients can be boosted by identifying micronutrient deficiencies and correcting them, but no other direct way of strengthening an already sick patient’s immunity is available anywhere.
As for a cure, Dr Kapila says that the vaccine would be discovered within a year at the earliest. “Even after the vaccine is discovered, the process of getting manufacturers licensed globally and making enough to meet the demands of our population will take much longer than that. Hence, precaution really is the best way forward as of now,” adds Dr Kapila.
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