By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
Yes, we the people are making some mistakes in the way some of us are reacting to the march of the Covid-19 pandemic through our towns and cities. Our own Mysuru is no different! That explains why we are seeing not only its very rapid and extensive spread across the highly crowded areas of most cities but also an unusually high mortality in cases coming from such pockets.
Our city, even for a good length of time after the pandemic entered our State, remained pretty much unaffected, with cases countable in just single digit figures and without a single true Covid-19 death. This rather unexpected and alarming surge that we are seeing over the past few days and which seems very likely to take things out of our control if left unchecked seems to be the outcome of two things.
One, the rather complacent attitude we all had while standing at our front doors, feeling happy that we were so unaffected, while the culprit crept in quietly and unnoticed through our backdoors! Two, the way most people on the streets were flouting every one of the recommendations made to keep us safe although they were the ones who were at the greatest risk. And while doing this, most people were actually wondering why our State administration was so jittery with its precautions and cautions when the enemy was nowhere to be seen.
It’s easy to blame the law enforcement authorities here, saying that their enthusiasm for levying fines on people for not wearing masks while wandering about on the roads did not last long. But we could not have expected the grossly outnumbered Police or the Town and City Corporation authorities across the State to catch every single offender and slap a fine on him or her or offer them free masks like angels of mercy, although they did the latter too while their patience lasted!
But while they did all this and while we all did our part and heeded all the warnings with sincerity, did we all not see how well Karnataka was impervious to Covid-19? It was only after people across the State started throwing caution to the winds and started urging the authorities to relax their restrictions and enable us all to earn a few rupees more that we began to pay a heavy price for it.
Today the situation is so bad that all our Hospitals across the State are full. Since Covid-19, with its extremely high infectivity is so scary, it is not only a surprise but a miracle that most Covid Warriors who see its impact from very close quarters, day in and day out, are continuing to do their duties, undeterred and unmindful of their own safety and the safety of their families. Today it is common knowledge that while the close relatives themselves of Covid victims are not coming forth either to look after them or even to claim the bodies of their dead, these Covid Warriors, like angels without halos, are doing what no one else is willing to do. It is the best part of the worst that is happening all around us and which we can all effectively prevent with a little patience and common sense.
So what is it that we should do besides social distancing and sanitising? There are a few other very important things that we can do to avoid much distress and even save our lives. Early reporting of even the slightest suspicious symptoms to our family doctors is very essential. By this I mean the fever and cold or an itchy or sore throat that do not go away in about three days with or without simple medication. A loss of smell or taste or unusual body ache or even mild diarrhoea. Yes, Covid-19 almost always starts with these seemingly very trivial symptoms.
And, why should you seek help early? Because early reporting leads to early Covid testing and brings us our test reports early at a time when all labs are overworked and have heavy backlogs.
Incidentally, contrary to what most people think and fear, getting a positive report does not mean that you will be instantly whisked away in a sky blue space-suit to another planet. This is the common misconception that is holding back the masses and uniformed people with suspicious symptoms from getting themselves tested or approaching the specially created fever clinics. Depending on your age and state of health you are more likely to be asked to stay in the safety and comfort of your own home but away from your other family members.
This is again only to safeguard their health by preventing them from catching your infection. Even if you do not meet the simple criteria for home quarantine or if you do not have a large enough house with an additional room and separate toilet or if you happen to live alone without anyone who can look after your needs, you can opt to enter an approved quarantine facility. These quarantine facilities range from completely free, basic ones created in schools, hostels and community halls to paid ones in modest to posh hotels that cater to all classes of people.
The other source of fear for many not-so-well-to-do people are the much whipped up rumours on social media that no one who goes to a Government Covid-19 hospital returns alive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I have myself advised many Covid positive people to get treated at the District Hospital on KRS Road, very much here in our own city and they have come out completely healed and alive, narrating happy tales of their experience there!
Not only that, the doctors who have been treating them there have all been very regularly keeping in touch with me and updating me about their progress with a very high degree of responsibility and commitment. It is true that hospitals like these are badly understaffed due to an acute shortage of people who are unwilling to work there out of sheer fear. But that is a problem that even the best private Covid hospitals are facing too.
People may point out that the fatality rate that we are seeing in our Government Covid hospitals is unusually high. It is true for a very important reason of its own. It is mostly the poor people who are uninformed and unlettered who go there for treatment. So they wander from pillar to post aimlessly, without knowing the best course of action and end up reaching there only when it is too late and their end is very near.
Incidentally, having a positive test report in hand is very important because without it no Covid Hospital will admit any patient today. They simply cannot afford to fill up their already scarce beds with undiagnosed cases which is very understandable. Early action in seeking treatment even for trivial and unsure symptoms is very crucial because in the few unlucky individuals, irrespective of whether they are young or old or healthy or unhealthy, weak or robust, these trivial symptoms can quickly progress to a completely moribund state. And, that is clearly the wrong time to go looking for a hospital where admission and specialised care can be sought. This is not like the good old times when finding a safe hospital bed was a matter of wide choice with wide options for anyone with the wherewithal to pay for it. Now deep pockets make no difference whatsoever, simply because hospital beds are no longer available even to the highest bidder. That is why we are seeing some of the richest people and even the doctors who are the owners of their own hospitals dying in their cars as they are being driven around by their desperate kith and kin, frantically searching for a vacant bed.
Yes, this is the scenario now and it is only expected to get worse unless we all work like one well oiled clock to get our timing right and stay out of trouble. The so-called complete lack of symptoms in the majority, the non-vulnerability of younger people, the tendency for spontaneous recovery and the inherent low mortality, are no doubt very true and very reassuring. But this is a simple game of dice and so they simply do not count because we cannot control the odds.
While our social behaviour and our own state of immunity load the gun, our own destiny presses the trigger! This only goes to prove that keeping ourselves aloof from others as much as possible and voluntarily adopting a very cautious and significantly toned down way of life to keep ourselves safe, with maybe a much reduced cash flow, is the winning combination. Distancing a lot from others and maybe distancing a little from our immediate ambitions is the key to success. To a great many of us it may seem like a rather heavy price but there’s simply no other way. You have to bend and bow a little or you have to pay!
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