Columns, Over A Cup of Evening Tea

Coronavirus Scare: What YOU should know !

January 31, 2020

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem

Like a bolt from the blue, the spectre of the Coronavirus infection which was almost unknown to most people has come into the limelight over the past two weeks. Since the most recent outbreak of this disease was from Wuhan in China, it has come to be known as the Wuhan Flu too. The twin facts that there is no definitive cure or vaccine yet for the Coronavirus disease and that it carries a very high mortality rate has naturally made most people nervous.

People in our country are particularly worried that since it has made its appearance in our neighbouring country of China it can easily spread to our country also. This fear is justified too as direct person to person contact is the main mode of transmission of this infection and there is a considerable interaction between the people of our two countries these days for purposes of education, trade or tourism.

Very unfortunately, thanks to social media, the fear of contracting this infection, which has gone viral, has gripped our society and it is spreading faster than the virus itself. But this need not be so as most of us who stay put at home have very little chance of coming into contact with carriers or sufferers of this infection.

The proper WHO guided preventive measures advocated by our health authorities if followed by all of us can go a very long way in safeguarding our health. As a first step, people should stop believing all that they see about this infection and its management on social media posts. Much of what is circulated is utter rubbish without any scientific basis which seems to be fabricated endlessly by some very unscrupulous individuals who take a perverse delight in creating panic through rumour-mongering. Some posts have even been fabricated with the logo and letterhead of the WHO to give them a look of scientific correctness. It is sad that in their anxiety most educated and knowledgeable people too fall prey to this racket and become jittery quite needlessly.

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What is worse is that with misguided good intentions, they also start forwarding the wrong information to all their contacts through social media posts. There is no point in panicking and resorting to all kinds of irrational, preventive and curative measures that only end up making us all look like fools. What you eat or how much water you drink or whether you keep your throat wet or dry will not make any difference to your chances of picking up the infection or surviving it. If you live well away from areas of its outbreak and if you happen to suffer from symptoms of malaise, cold, cough and fever you are more likely to be having the common flu rather than anything serious! Any panic is completely unfounded.

But if you do happen to be in the vicinity of the infection, it makes sense to be a little careful and take some scientifically correct precautions. These include the incorporation of WHO recommended quarantine protocols for patients and good personal hygiene measure like washing and sanitisation of hands for those who care for them.

Very simple measures such as avoiding contact like hugging and shaking hands with  anyone having symptoms of cold and cough, covering our nose and mouth with a towel or handkerchief while coughing and sneezing, avoiding unprotected contact with wild or farm animals and proper cooking of meat and eggs will all ensure a very high degree of protection. There are dozens of other very potent and incurable viral infections like Ebola, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome and Swine flu which keep surfacing from time to time somewhere in the world only to die a natural death without wiping us out. This is the natural history of most viral diseases. Let us hope that this time too we may see the same thing     happening !

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[Issued in public interest by  MAHAN — Mysuru Association of Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Clinics and Diagnostics]

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