AIIMS director Randeep Guleria on the precautions one must take amid the coronavirus outbreak, testing facilities at the premier medical institute, and speculation on whether summer could diminish the effects of the virus.
With seven cases being reported in the capital so far, the Delhi government has shut cinema halls, schools and colleges as precautionary measures. What, according to you, are other measures that can be taken?
Prevention is always better than cure. We have seen that the number of cases has suddenly gone up in countries such as Italy and Iran, which means there was no index case and the infection spread through the crowd. Due to the sudden spike, the number of deaths and admissions in hospitals have also increased. If we want to put a stop to it, we should focus on self-quarantine and avoid going to crowded places. This will not lead to an outbreak in our country. Till now, we have been lucky. The Government of India has also taken good measures to avoid any type of community spread.
What are the facilities at AIIMS for testing samples?
At AIIMS, virology labs are regularly testing samples sent by the government. As of now we have enough capacity to test samples, and it can be increased as per the situation. If required, a new lab facility will be started at our National Cancer Institute in Jhajjar. All positive samples from AIIMS are also being sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune for confirmation.
There has been panic among people who have displayed flu-like symptoms. What is the difference between Covid-19 and the flu?
There is not much difference between symptoms of Covid-19 and the flu. Many people are getting fever, cough, cold, sore throat and body ache, but if you have travelled abroad in the last 14 days, especially to countries which have been affected by the disease, only then should you approach the helpline and get a test done. You shouldn’t go directly to the hospital because even if it is a viral infection, you will still be passing it on to other patients by coughing and sneezing. It will infect the entire area.
Is it possible that the effects of the virus could diminish during the summer?
It is a theory, which is not yet proven. Some people say the virus will be less effective in summers. If Delhi sees extreme heat levels this summer, it could make it difficult for the virus to survive in such an environment and the magnitude of transmission will also come down. But we should also remember that the virus broke out in tropical countries such as Thailand and Singapore, where the heat levels are comparatively higher. Also, if the heat levels are high, people will stay indoors and switch on air conditioners. This will bring down the temperature again and give space for the virus to spread.