How exactly does coronavirus spread?
There can be two ways of transmission — from droplets via air or droplets on surfaces, and by touching the eyes or mouth with our hands. If a person gets infected, he/she will not show symptoms for some time. This time is called the incubation period, when a person can infect others while talking or sneezing. The person then transmits infectious droplets that will settle on several surfaces like sofas, lifts, etc. Similarly, the virus can survive in the air for a few hours or days as well, like if someone coughs, depending on temperature or humidity. Someone who gets exposed to such surfaces or that air will get infected.
How is India placed in terms of spread of the virus?
There are three stages in an epidemic — first, when infection starts, second, when it infects near ones, and third, when it transmits to several people, called community transmission.
We are presently in stage 2 as per official data. If the number of infected is large, it can get converted into deaths subsequently.
What’s the way ahead?
unfortunately, there is no treatment for the disease as of now and the only way to contain this is prevention. There are two ways of preventing the transmission — by washing your hands frequently and we all should stay inside home to avoid any type of droplets transmission. We are just inching towards the third stage and cases are expected to rise in the coming days.
The PM has announced Janata Curfew for one day. What’s your view on this?
It’s a wonderful step, but it should be extended for at least two more weeks. The government should in fact start it from Saturday to see how people are responding. In a country like India with such a large population, one has to take stringent steps. Our population to ICU bed ratio, population to hospital bed ratio, population to ventilator ratio is much lower than Italy, England or the United States. It should be extended for two weeks. It may sound like overreaction but this is a situation where overreaction is the only correct reaction.
What about those at home?
Everyone at home should follow cough hygiene. Please wear masks or cough in a handkerchief or napkins or, as a last resort, sneeze into the inner side of your elbow so that you don’t spread droplets Thirdly, if there are elderly people, place them in a separate room everyone else must follow hand hygiene while visiting that room. Anything sent to their room should be sanitised… anyone with a cough or cold should not enter the room.
There is a debate over whether we are testing enough
We are under-testing. But I am personally not in favour of testing. That won’t prevent infection. As a doctor, my focus would rather be on preventing than testing.
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