New Delhi: The new deadly coronavirus infecting people in China has no cure at present. No vaccine exists either to prevent the disease. India, therefore, is on alert to prevent the spread of the infection here from China, where it originated. In case it does spread, top doctors say, the hospitals are well-equipped to handle the situation.
The virus causes flu-like symptoms, for example cold, chills and respiratory distress.
Dr Randeep Guleria, the director of AIIMS, told TOI that evidence so far suggests mortality rates of the virus aren’t very high. “The government has already put in thermal scanners at airports to detect possible cases. So far, there have been none. But even if such cases are found, we have enough infrastructure and expertise to contain the spread of the disease,” he said.
AIIMS, Dr Guleria said, has a cubicle where six to seven patients can be isolated for treatment. “Depending on the requirement, we can increase the capacity of isolation wards 100% or more,” he said.
Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) and Safdarjung hospitals, too, have infrastructure in place to create isolation wards at short notice. Infected people may be required to be separated from other patients and the general population.
Like seasonal influenza, which is quite common these days, coronavirus infection also spreads from an infected person to others through the air, by coughing and sneezing or through close personal contact. Dr Amit Suri, consultant in medicine department at RML hospital, said maintaining hand hygiene and following respiratory etiquette is important to prevent the spread of the disease.
According to Dr Rommel Tickoo, senior consultant for internal medicine at Max Saket, not many people are aware of the new infection at present. “If a case is diagnosed in India, then people may panic. We need to have plan in place to educate the public about preventive measures if such a situation arises,” he said.
Last year, scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) — the most important health research bodies in the country — had identified 10 emerging viral infections that could pose a threat to public health in India. The list included MERS-CoV, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronaviruses, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to 26 countries.
The Wuhan illness, as the new infection is being described because its epicentre is in the Chinese city called Wuhan, is of the same family that caused MERS-CoV.
“National Institute of Virology, Pune is developing protocols to test the infection. In the next few days, more laboratories may be equipped to test people suspected to be infected,” Dr Chand Wattal, chairman of the microbiology department at Sir Ganga Ram hospital, said.
Union health secretary Preeti Sudan on Thursday said she has asked states and union territories to review hospital preparedness in terms of isolation and ventilator management of critically ill patients, identify gaps and strengthen core capacities like surveillance and laboratory support.
Thermal screening is being done at the international airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin.-Times Of India