There is a fine line between advocacy and scaring people. The aim is to create the much needed awareness & reinforce measures to keep us, our loved one and the community safe. A big salute to our Hon'ble Prime Minister for his extraordinary leadership skills and to the outstanding efforts of our medical & healthcare personnel at this most difficult time.
Although there are over 110 people in India who are COVID 19 positive, there is a difference between the officially declared numbers versus "true" cases in the community. People can be infected with COVID 19 and yet have no symptoms.
Therefore, in order to get a fair idea regarding spread in the community, screening must be extended to people having flu like symptoms on a large scale involving the NABL accredited laboratories.
There is now growing evidence from several studies conducted globally that asymptomatic people (people without symptoms) are causing significant number of infections, not only with their contact with others, but also through indirect transmission by way of contaminating common objects such as door handles, elevator button, wash room taps etc. It is important to remember that the virus remains active on surfaces for many hours or even days.
In the meantime, the best way to deal with this "unwelcome visitor" in our lives is to presume we are infected and that people we come into contact are potentially infected.
"Social distancing" is the key to limit the exponential spread, which saves scores of lives
Some Do's and Don'ts...
Personal hygiene - frequent hand washing for 20 seconds with soap and water
Cough etiquette - to cough or sneeze into closed elbow
Consciously, not to touch face/nose/eyes
Stay at home if you are not well
Take extra care of the elederly at home. Minimise vistors coming home.
Important to AVOID
- Shaking hands (Namaste is the best way to greet!)
- Close contact with people who are sick
- "Face to face" meetings as far as possible (six feet distance). Try to work from Home.
- Gatherings (small or big)
- Gyms/Swimming pools
- All entertainment arenas particularly Malls/cinema theatres/clubs/pubs/restaurants/parties/sporting activities
- Places of worship
- Travel (international) and domestic (unless it is absolutely essential/urgent)
Group meetings and Conferences must be cancelled. It amazes me that a several pan India Doctors Conferences' (including some international) were held even though WHO has declared COVID 19 outbreak as a global health emergency. As President of the Association of Surgeons of India, which is the world's second largest Surgical Organisation that represents the surgical fraternity all across the Country, with responsible foresight, I deferred all Meetings/Courses/Conferences in all the 29 States in the early part of the first week of March, well before COVID 19 outbreak was declared a pandemic.
Every Government and Private Hospital must have protocols in place. In addition to earmarking designated areas which are easily accessable for testing/treating COVID 19 positive patients, there must be adequate reserves/equipment/manpower. Protocols for screening visitors - restricting entry to a limited number, cancelling weekly "in house" Hospital Meetings, and instead, utilise IT for communication would help as well.
The next one month would be crucial in determining if India can in fact "flatten the curve" and contain the exponential transmission of the virus. We must do everything in our power to make this happen...
(Dr P Raghu Ram is President, The Association of Surgeons of India, and is a Padma Shri awardee.)
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