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Coronavirus Outbreak

COVID Cases Are Up, Is It Time To Mask Up? Here’s What The Experts Have To Say

The spike in COVID-19 cases is becoming a cause for concern, as the country recorded more than 2,000 active cases and six fatalities from three states

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COVID Cases Are Up, Is It Time To Mask Up? Here's What The Experts Have To Say
Health experts have suggested wearing masks, especially in public places, to contain the spread of the virus

New Delhi: The rise in the coronavirus cases and some reported fatalities in India are bringing back the grim memories of the pandemic that restricted lives of people and brought the world to a halt for almost two years. Up till December 21, the country recorded more than 500 fresh COVID-19 infections, while the number of active cases increased to 2,669, according to the Union Health Ministry. So far, six people have died of the virus complication in the three states – Kerala, Karnataka and Punjab.

The spike in the number of infections is reportedly driven by a new sub-variant that has been found in the country. First detected in Karakulam in the Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala, the new sub-variant, JN.1, is a descendant of Pirola BA.2.86 variant, the parent lineage that is classified as a variant of interest.

Also Read: COVID-19 Updates: India Logs More Than 500 Cases, Records Six Deaths From Three States

Amid the surge, health experts have suggested wearing masks, especially in public places, to contain the spread of the infection. As concerns spread and Covid came under the spotlight again, experts stepped in to say there is no need to panic, as the circulating viruses keep changing. But staying alert is the key, they added. Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, a senior consultant physician and public health expert, told PTI,

A sub-variant of SARS CoV-2 is not a surprise at all.

Speaking to NDTV, Dr Hemant P Thacker, member of the Maharashtra COVID Task Force and MD, Internal Medicine from Mumbai, discussed if the new sub variant is more dangerous than the previous ones. He said,

At the outset, I want to placate people’s fears that it is a new variant but not more dangerous than what we have experienced earlier. It is an Omicron variant and Omicron had the traditional BA.2.86 variant, which we called Pirola. The current sub variant and Pirola only have the morphological protein difference.

Symptoms And Effects Of JN.1

Dr Thacker said that symptoms of JN.1 include having a runny nose, mild fever, headache and loose motions for a long time. Talking about the effects of the virus, Dr Rohit Kumar, Head of Pulmonary Medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, said,

All the Covid variants affect the respiratory system the most. Several upper respiratory problems are seen in the patients, such as sore throat, cough, cold, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Apart from this, problems like pneumonia in the lower respiratory system also occur in the lungs, and since it is the winter season, upper respiratory problems are being seen more during this time, but we cannot call them COVID because they can also be seasonal flu.

How To Avoid Contracting The New Sub Variant?

“Prevention is the key,” said the experts. Dr Hemant Thacker said that the safety net of ‘masking’ is of utmost importance, especially in the places where social distancing is difficult. He also advised people to avoid visiting places such as theatres, auditoriums, as there is a larger probability of sick people being around.

Taking the influenza vaccine is of another importance, for individuals to protect themselves against the common flu and some degree of protection from the variants, the health expert added. Dr Thacker emphasised,

Do not fear but do not take it lightly.

On the other hand, Dr Rohit Kumar suggested patients experiencing sore throat, cough, cold, chest pain, or difficulty breathing to consult the doctor immediately. He said,

This is important, especially for those already suffering from respiratory diseases and having asthma.

Dr. Sudhir Bhandari, Vice Chancellor, Rajasthan University of Health Sciences, said that JN.1 is not critical, but senior citizens and patients with comorbidities may face critical conditions due to their compromised immune system. Hence, it is advised for them to remain cautious.

Also Read: 21 Cases Of Covid Sub-Variant JN.1 Found In Three States, Says NITI Aayog Member V K Paul

Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chair, Indian Medical Association (IMA) COVID Task Force, also highlighted the problems the new variant can create for people of old age and those with multiple comorbidities. The health expert said,

JN.1 is a fast-spreading variant, it could go into the next tier of the population, which is the vulnerable age group, older people and also people with multiple comorbidities. In such individuals, their underlying conditions can destabilise and could result in their hospitalisation and complications after that.

Talking about the spike in the coronavirus cases in Kerala, where the new variant was first detected, Dr Jayadevan also informed that the team of health experts have been monitoring the test positivity rate of COVID among people with flu-like symptoms in the state. Talking about the findings, he said,

In our network we found that the percentage increased from 1 per cent to 9 per cent to 30 per cent in a matter of two months.

Like other health experts, Dr Jayadevan also emphasised on taking precautionary measures to avoid contracting the virus. He said,

COVID-19 is best avoided, even if the initial symptoms are mild. The reported numbers will be an underestimate because very little testing is actually going on.

Emphasising testing, Dr Jayadevan said,

The advantage of testing is twofold. One, we can take precise precautionary measures to stop its spread deeper into our community. Secondly, it will tell us the changing nature of the virus.

Wearing masks in high-risk settings is a good idea during times of a COVID surge, he added.

Also Read: Need To Be Alert But No Need To Panic: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya After Review Meeting Amid Rise In Covid Cases

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India. 

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