24 January 2020
New Delhi: The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Friday said there is no need to panic or fear about the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) disease for the people in India.
Speaking to IANS, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria said: "Mortality due to Novel Coronavirus may not be high but we still need to be vigilant because we don't want it to spread rapidly here. The important issue here is to have good control to prevent the infection from spreading."
"So if there is a suspected person he must be isolated. Good infection control measures should be taken and you should try to prevent human to human spread so that the infection doesn't spread to the community and, therefore, leads to an outbreak," he said.
Guleria also said that "if lots of precautionary measures are taken we can prevent it coming to India or contain it if the infection occurs in India. We are vigilant. We have our own isolation facility. We are all prepared to manage if there is suspected case and to isolate and to take precautions so that healthcare workers are also protected.
"But every case doesn't need to be investigated for Coronavirus because this time it is winter and a lot of people have fever, cough and cold which is normal flu and that doesn't mean that if you have fever cough and cold, you have Coronavirus because it is in China. Unless someone comes in contact with an infected person, there is no need to worry or panic. A normal person who has not travelled to China and has not come in contact with such an individual need not worry because the virus cannot travel on its own."
Talking about the difference between the Novel Coronavirus and seasonal flu he said the "difference between the standard Coronavirus and Novel Coronavirus is that a lot of people have some immunity to seasonal flu therefore they don't get infection. But this virus is novel, therefore chances of getting infection are high."
"This is a novel virus. It means that this is a new virus to which humans have no exposure to, and therefore they have no immunity to it. If one has infection, the body is not having an immune response to it, thus, that person has a chance of getting the infection and, those who are vulnerable, of getting severe infection which can lead to hospitalisation<" he said.
"It is a human virus because now it has human to human spread but the genetic material of the virus is different because it has a little bit of animal origin. It has mutated and has become a new virus," he added.
Guleria also told IANS that "if you look at the last 15 to 20 years, there have been outbreaks of new viruses, and it is basically because of travel and exposure. The infection spreads rapidly and because of our increased ability to have good diagnostic tests, we are able to diagnose it more rapidly than what we could do 30 years ago when we did not have good viral labs."
Gularia said people need to take precautions like washing hands frequently, covering their mouths when coughing (because it is a droplet infection and spread by coughing and droplets), and avoid coming in close contact with infected individuals.
Speaking about the guidelines received from the Health Ministry, he said "the ministry has made guidelines for management of the Novel Coronavirus and there is also an advisory made in the past during the spread of the H1N1 virus and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreaks which have potential of becoming a pandemic."
Guleria assured that there are currently no nCoV cases in the country, the outbreak being restricted to China, and so one need not to worry in India.
"It is occurring more in China because of crowding, the humans exposure to animals and poultry in the market, and the ability of viruses now to mix, mutate," he said.
Talking about the nCoV symptoms, he said these are very nonspecific but patients show symptoms like fever, cough and cold which can lead to breathing difficulty. These can be present with pneumonia, a lower respiratory tract infection, while some people can have respiratory failure requiring ICU care and ventilator support.
"The treatment is the standard one we give for any patient with pneumonia. Unfortunately there is no antiviral drug or vaccine available for this infection as of now, but research and studies are going on to make a vaccine, which will take a few months. AIIMS is researching on antiviral drugs specifically for coronavirus, but a lot of research is going on to look for new drugs for viral infection and bacterial infection as part of multiple research project," he said.
Chinese health authorities on Friday said that 830 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused in 2019 by nCoV had been reported in 29 provincial regions, and 1,072 suspected cases reported in 20 regions.
Official sources told IANS that most of the over 500 Indian students studying in China's Wuhan city universities and medical colleges had left for home for the Chinese New Year holidays.