Islamabad: All cough and fever is not linked to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19); many people in Rawalpindi and Islamabad are currently suffering from allergies induced by paper mulberry and various grasses. Let the doctor diagnose your illness; don’t entertain any apprehensions on the basis of mere assumption.
Eminent medical and chest specialist Dr. Naghman Bashir gave this piece of advice while talking to ‘The News’ here on Tuesday. ‘If I have cough and fever, does that mean I have contracted COVID-19,’ is the most frequently asked question that Dr. Naghman answers each day during his clinical practice.
Even though the chief symptoms of COVID-19 are on everyone’s fingertips by now, Dr. Naghman said, “A person is suspected to have COVID-19 only when he/she has major symptoms (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, body aches with fatigue, or sore throat) and has, over the last two weeks, travelled from a country affected by an outbreak. Similarly, a person showing symptoms and having been in contact with an international traveler from an infected country; a patient with cough and fever and recent contact with a suspected patient of COVID-19; and a healthcare worker who develops symptoms while offering care to a suspected patient must be considered as suspect cases.”
Dr. Naghman shared that very few (approximately 5%) confirmed patients of Coronavirus have runny nose, with or without sneezing. Similarly, very few patients—mostly those with impaired immunity—may additionally experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea with major symptoms.
“It is important to remember that a person who does not have symptoms but has remained in contact with a suspected patient of COVID-19, may be shedding the virus and infecting others,” Dr. Naghman said. He shared the virus may be shed in the nasal, oral, or lung secretions well before the affected person has any symptoms.
“A person who catches the virus is assumed to show symptoms about 5-7 days later—a timeframe during which he may be spreading the virus to other people around. As such, people may not know that they are infected and may still be infecting others. This is why physical distancing is so important in preventing further spread of the disease.
Moreover, an infected person can infect over 400 people in 30 days if notisolated; however; if he/she restricts social activity by 75%, the infection will be passed on to only 6 persons in the same period.”
The virus, Dr. Naghman reminded, is expelled in droplets in secretions from the nose and throat, and also in droplets coughed up by patients. “These airborne viruses may be inhaled by a person close to a patient, which is why keeping a distance of at least 3 feet (preferably 6 feet) is recommended,” he said. It is important to cough and sneeze into a tissue paper and discard it, or to cough and sneeze into the crook of one’s elbow.
Since the virus is relatively large, it remains suspended in the air for 2-3 hours before settling down on nearby objects like tabletops, keyboards, phones, doorknobs, and other surfaces. “Touching such objects contaminates the hands, and once the hands come into contact with the nose, mouth, or face, the virus is transmitted. Frequent handwashing and cleaning the surfaces of potentially contaminated objects with bleach power solution can also restrict spread of the virus,” he said.
The good news is that COVID-19 is not always deadly. Many people who catch the virus have mild symptoms and tend to recover. Almost 81% of the infected people have mild disease while the remaining 14% have serious illness requiring hospitalization. Only about 5% have critical illness requiring ICU care. “Most deaths occur in the older age group—and that too in patients sick with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic lung diseases. Smokers have a high risk of critical illness even in the younger age group. But still it must be stressed that even in the presence of mild disease, physical distancing is the best way to contain the infection,” he advised.
Responding to a query, Dr. Naghman said, COVID-19 appears to behave the same way in pregnant women as in non-pregnant ladies. Moreover, there is no evidence so far to suggest mother-to-child transmission. He also dismissed some of the widely circulating myths about various aspects of COVID-19. Firstly, virus transmission may slow down as temperatures rise but this is not scientifically proven as yet. Secondly, coronavirus is transmitted from person-to-person through close contact, and not by mosquitoes or through animals. Thirdly, hot fluids and gargles will not prevent transmission though they may soothe and comfort a sore throat. Fourthly, ultraviolet lights should not be used for disinfection as this may cause skin irritation and eye damage.
Dr. Naghman clarified thermal scanners only detect fever; they cannot ascertain whether fever is due to common cold, bronchitis, or COVID 19. Moreover, there is no screening test for Coronavirus; only specialized tests at designated centers can confirm its presence. Garlic, onion, ginger, Vitamin C and other dietary suggestions do not cure the disease. However, a healthy diet can definitely maintain your immunity otherwise, he added, concluding “this is a pandemic that requires concerted efforts for control. Please follow medical advice, not rumors.”