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“No, Daaru does not drive away Corona”

Confused on the Corona Virus: Hear it Straight from Dr Rajesh\

Even as the novel corona virus spreads across the world hurting both economies and people with the number of new infections as well as fatalities showing a relentless rise outside of China, India until a few days ago had maintained a relatively cleaner slate. Thanks to the Indian healthcare authorities’ sharp vigilance at the airports and the near-consummate post-identification quarantine efforts, the infection numbers had remained comparatively modest. This was particularly significant in view of the huge international traffic volume that makes its way in and out of the airports and sea ports in the country. However, as the country witnessed its first corona-related death on Tuesday, 10th March, it is timely that the pandemic, as declared by the WHO only days ago, and its possible ramifications be examined more closely in context of India.

Here is a set of questions that most of us lay people have grappled with in recent weeks and months. With an aim to alleviate people’s anxieties and help them prepare better, the questions have been answered by Dr Rajesh Bhardwaj, one of the top doctors in Delhi (NCR) with an outstanding service record for over three decades.

The questions and answers are as follows:

Q Whether India is headed the China way given the similarity in terms of the size of population in the two countries? Or whether India is better placed?   

Ans: We seem to be better placed because China was caught unprepared – it was the epicentre of the pandemic. We at least have advance notice that this disease exists and we have learnt ways to contain it.

Q Is the govt in panic mode? Or, if the govt is yet complacent?

Ans: The Govt seems to be behaving very rationally and adequately – the decision to ban visas for incoming travel is definitely a step in the right direction.

Q Isn’t there a possibility of the virus suddenly exacting a heavy toll while it may appear benign as of now? Has something like this happened before anywhere in the world?  

Ans: The infection has entered the phase II in India right now – Cluster cases. We should prevent it from reaching the next phase, namely, the Communication phase where the number of infected persons rises dramatically.

It is difficult to compare this with other scenarios since the disease pattern is different at this stage.

Q Are people in panic mode? Should people be in panic mode?

Ans: There is a certain amount of panic that I have seen among my patients – they are frightened of getting the infection – but I tell them this is not a virus that exists in the air – you can only get it by human contact. So, unless you have history of travel to affected countries, or have been exposed to person/persons affected, you are safe.

There is no need for panic as the disease is mild for more than 90% of persons affected so far.

Q Do people need to completely recast their way of living as they do today, or a moderate change in lifestyle should be followed by people? If they should completely transform their lifestyle, in what ways should they do it?

Ans: Well, we shouldn’t use a pandemic to determine how we live our lives – it is a one-off event, but there are some sensible precautions we can adhere to as a lifestyle practice. They could be:

Thorough hand washing – especially after using the washroom as well as before eating

Maintaining good respiratory hygiene behaviour- cough into a tissue or crook of your elbow, do not spit, avoid socialising if you have an upper respiratory infection, do not send your child to school if he is unwell with a viral infection etc.

Exercising regularly

Q Should the intensity of scrutiny be different for different states and geographies?

Ans: I think they should remain the same because we do not know when or where the next cluster will appear.

Q Has the rate of spread reduced or increased, or remained the same?

Ans: Countries that are going in containment mode are showing a dramatic decrease in the number of fresh cases (China); some countries are levelling off (South Korea). In some countries, like Germany and other European countries, it is likely to increase till further measures are taken to contain it.

A Few Words of Precaution by the Doctor

  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Stay indoors as far as possible
  • Avoid visiting crowded places, including malls
  • Do moderate exercises
  • Stay hydrated
  • Follow rules of good hygiene – hand sanitizers/washing hands thoroughly with soap
  • See a doctor in case of early symptoms- fever, cough and breathlessness
  • Government advisories mention local points of contact for testing – please go there in case of above complaints.
Q Could you spell out some common myths about this virus.

Ans: (i) It is found only in wet places and not dry places – Though the virus resides best on soft surfaces like fabric and wood, it does persist for a while on hard and polished surfaces like steel as well.

(ii) Vaccine is available- no

(iii) Local remedies can treat the infection (like alcohol intake etc) – Though some countries have tried to treat with medication, there is no conclusive evidence that anything works. However, some advanced anti-viral medication is showing some promise.

Dr Rajesh Bhardwaj has been formerly associated with various prestigious hospitals in South Delhi including Sitaram Bhartia Institute, Max Med Centre and is currently a practising doctor at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.

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