The Maharashtra Government has expanded the use of hydroxychloroquine tablets as a preventive measure against COVID-19. It has directed district administrations and municipal bodies to provide the anti-malarial tablets to government employees conducting door-to-door surveys in affected areas. The tablets will also be given voluntarily to those working at medical facilities in COVID-19 affected areas.
The directive has been issued by Principal Secretary of Maharashtra Public Health Department, Dr Pradeep Vyas.
Earlier, the government had directed the authorities involved in the fight against COVID-19 to hand out hydroxychloroquine tablets to the non-diagnosed family members of COVID-19 patients and medical staff working at hospitals treating them.
“Staffers and officials involved in surveying should be included (preventive administration of HCQS). Similarly, doctors and officials at various community clinics, district health units and community health centres located in COVID-19 affected areas should also be included. Other medical staffers and officials, who may come in contact with suspected or positive patients, should also be included to get the benefit of hydroxychloroquine,” the directive stated.
The use of HCQS is, however, voluntary and a health official or staffer has be informed about the pros and cons of the effects of tablets. The directive further stated that those with hypertension, diabetes and cardiac illnesses should be given HCQS only after consultation with a doctor. Patients of retinopathy and hyper-sensitivity, as well as those below 15 years of age are not to be given the doses, the directive said.
Earlier, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had decided to distribute 50,000 tablets as a preventive measure in Mumbai slums, where there is a high possibility of rapid spread of the pandemic due to difficulty in following social distancing. Mumbai Police officers have also been counselled to take HCQS tablets as a preventive measure.
Hydroxychloroquine, an oral prescription drug, is widely used in the treatment of malaria, as well as autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In the context of COVID-19, the Indian Council of Medical Research has recommended the tablets in very specific cases. It is to be used as a post-exposure prophylactic (preventive medicine) by asymptomatic healthcare workers looking after suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.
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