New Delhi: The outbreak of Coronavirus, which the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency, has killed more than 400 people as of February 3 in China as per the National Health Commission. It has now spread to more than 25 nations, including India, Russia and Britain. In India, the third case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Kerala by the state health minister on February 3. The virus is believed to have originated late last year in a food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Speaking exclusively to NDTV’s Sonia Singh, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria explained the threat posed by the disease, its consequences in the Indian context.
Question: How worried should India be over the coronavirus?
Dr Guleria: It is definitely a cause of concern but I think we need not be that worried. The issue here is to prevent it or at least delay its entry into the country and as we know, the epicenter is in China, therefore all flights and individuals coming from China or travelling through Hong Kong or South East Asia need to be thoroughly screened and they also need to be aware that if they have the flu-like symptoms, they need to report to the concerned doctor or call up the call centre (Health Ministry haS introduced the helpline 011-23978046). They basically need to isolate themselves so that they don’t become the index case to spread the disease in our own community.
Question: With the third case of coronavirus confirmed in India, is it a cause of concern for the country or India has managed the virus and has got some level of stability?
Dr Guleria: We have enough labs in the country to detect the virus and samples are being evaluated. The screening process, currently being done can delay the onset of coronavirus coming into the country. But our concern currently is that the virus should not lead to the sustained human-to-human spread and to do that we have to quarantine people. If you look at the current data, which is emerging, in terms of data from other countries and from China, it does show that while the person shows the symptoms of the virus and during the incubation period, he can spread the infection to others but in most cases, the infection has been very mild and self-limiting. Therefore by the current measures that have been taken in India to combat the virus, we will be able to prevent or delay the spread of the infection. But it is not something that one can say is a foolproof method and there is always a chance that during the incubation period the person may have spread the infection to someone or in the community and that’s why all those people who have come in contact with the infected individual have to be vigilant and if they have symptoms of fever, cough, cold and breathing the difficulty, they must immediately report to the health centre, get themselves tested and if they are positive, they need to be quarantined.
Question: What makes coronavirus fatal? Does the virus have no recovery as there is no vaccine so far?
Dr Guleria: Coronavirus is not a very severe illness if we look at what SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) did in 2002-03, it had a mortality of almost 10 per cent that means, out of 100, 10 people would die. The current data suggest that the Noval Coronavirus of 2019 has a mortality of only 2 to 3 per cent. So a large number of people who have this infection are sort of a-systematic or recover on their own with just systematic treatment. As a matter of fact, there has been only one death outside of China, in the Philippines and all individuals who had this infection outside China have actually recovered on their own. Some of the individuals have very mild symptoms. For people who require hospitalization, and almost 15-20 per cent may require hospitalization, only that group of patients who are at high risk like the elderly or those who are immunosuppressed (a reduction of the activation or efficacy of the immune system) at times can develop acute respiratory depressed symptom and require ventilator support, in that group the mortality can be higher.
Question: Three most important things people should know about coronavirus
Dr Guleria: The first and foremost important thing is that people should not create panic about the virus. People need to understand that during this time of the year, flu symptoms that are common to Coronavirus will happen to a large number of people. The only reason you can suspect that you could be fighting with the virus is the epidemiological history that you have traveled or come back from China or have come close in contact with the infected person who has Coronavirus or you are in hospital managing such patients. Lastly, few of the measures we all could take to avoid any kind of virus transmission is that when you are coughing, you should cover the cough, if while coughing, you are using a tissue, make sure you dispose it off properly and if using a handkerchief then make sure you get it washed properly. Coronavirus is a droplet infection, so by coughing one can spread the infection. Lastly, do remember to do regular handwashing because that’s another way the infection can spread from one individual to another. I don’t think the virus is a cause of panic, it is not a very severe illness, it is something which is novel, it is a new virus, so there is really no inherent immunity. There is currently no vaccine to deal with the infection nor there is any proven effective anti-viral drug for the coronavirus, so we all just need to be more vigilant.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.