‘Bengalureans should be prepared to tackle virus’

‘Bengalureans should be prepared to tackle virus’

Doctors say that due to a large number of travellers, the city is susceptible to coronavirus

Over a hundred people have died in China since the outbreak of coronavirus (a virus that causes respiratory failure) earlier this month. It is spreading rapidly and cases are springing up in different parts of the world.
A sense of panic has set in India too, especially among people living in metropolitan cities, which see a large number of travellers and expats coming in from the affected countries.

Metrolife spoke to a few doctors to understand if Bengalurueans have anything to worry about and what are the precautionary measures people can keep in mind.

No one is really prepared for coronavirus anywhere in the world, says Dr Deepak Balani, chief of medical services at Sakra World Hospital. “The requirements are really stringent and it is difficult to identify the cases and take precautions to prevent its spread. It is a huge challenge,” he says.

Coronavirus has been around for years and has been causing relatively minor infections. There are multiple varieties of this virus, most of which cause upper respiratory infections such as cold, sore throat and mild cough; others cause certain kinds of influenza. What has emerged now, seems to be a serious variation — it spreads faster and can cause greater harm to patients.

Fever, cough, shortness of breath and myalgia (soreness of the muscles) are common symptoms. Others include headache and running nose.

“It is important to understand that most patients who are infected with this condition will not be symptomatic and may not show any signs whatsoever. One may not even know. These symptoms, however, can manifest to a greater degree after the incubation period, which is 10 to 14 days,” says Dr Balani.

He adds, “People now have a responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus by practising personal hygiene. Also, they should self-declare if they develop any of the symptoms and go for a medical check-up. They should refrain from self-medication, even if it seems to be just normal fever or cold.”

Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for this disease and antibiotics don’t work. The only way to control its spread is through awareness and taking adequate
preventive measures to protect oneself.

People should be aware that apart from droplet infection (spread by sneezing or coughing), it can also spread through ‘fomites’ — objects susceptible to infection such as door knobs, railings, furniture, etc.

“There is no vaccination for it. We can only support the patient by putting them on ventilators and treating secondary problems that arise,” explains Dr S G Harish, internal medicine, BR Life SSNMC Hospital, RR Nagar.

Should Bengaluru worry?

“Any city that is well connected through air travel is at risk and it’s necessary for us to be on red alert. We have a patient who had recently travelled to Dubai and is now on ventilator support. We tested him for coronavirus and other respiratory diseases; he is tested positive for a variant of influenza but we are on high alert,” he says.

Dr Priya Ramachandran, professor, pulmonologist, St John’s Hospital, Koramangala, is also of the opinion that Bengaluru needs to worry about the spread of the virus because a large number of people are constantly travelling.

“It is an air-borne disease and can spread through the droplets of an infected person’s sneeze, cough or even breath. Those who are travelling or have travelled to the affected areas should take utmost care. It spreads just like common cold and symptoms include body ache, high-grade fever and cold. If you are feeling very sick, it is advisable to contact a doctor.”

She says that it is wise to avoid visiting live markets and reduce consumption of raw meat. One should cook the meat thoroughly before consumption.

She points out that Bengaluru is not yet prepared to face any coronavirus cases. However, there is no need to panic, just as yet.
“We need to brace up and have functional screening centres at airports and bus stands. Individuals need to volunteer and themselves go for screening,” she adds.

The Kempegowda International Airport already has a screening facility and helpdesk for travellers coming in from affected countries.

Symptoms

Cold

Body ache

Fever

Shortness of breath

Difficulty in walking

Precautionary measure

Use masks

Move away from someone if they have sneezed or cough without covering their mouth and nose.

Use a tissue to sneeze or wipe the nose. Discard the tissue immediately. Avoid using a handkerchief.

Fold your arms and sneeze on your elbow.

Wash hands frequently with handwash.

Use an alcohol-based rub.

Avoid touching eyes, mouth or nose directly with hands.