Containing coronavirus: The rapid global spread of the coronavirus will test nations including India
With around 24 countries including India reporting confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and WHO declaring a global health emergency, the emphasis across the world is on bolstering screening and quarantine facilities to not get caught napping later. The deaths numbering over 300 and around 15,000 infections reported worldwide, mostly in China, and the pneumonia-like symptoms recall the 2002-03 SARS outbreak. Unlike 17 years ago when it was less connected and influential, China poses a tricky challenge today. Chinese tourists, diaspora and entrepreneurs comprise a significant proportion of international air travellers, complicating any decision to shut off borders and flights to China.
But there are lessons to be learnt from the Chinese experience as countries beef up surveillance, treatment and prevention mechanisms. More reports indicate that for several weeks after the first case was detected on December 1, Chinese authorities prioritised secrecy and public order over creating awareness, despite the contagion spreading through Wuhan. Other countries stand a better chance of isolating the virus through early action, because suspected cases currently are few and far between.
Though the new coronavirus mortality rate is just over 2%, unlike the 10% logged by SARS, it is more infectious and there is no clarity yet on whether it is mutating and turning more potent as it finds new hosts. Virologists now believe that the coronavirus incubation period is around 14 days, necessitating self or institutional quarantine for that period. India must maintain a high state of vigil at airports and state public health authorities must closely watch all those returning from China. By compiling primary and secondary contact lists of persons exposed to confirmed cases, Kerala had successfully contained Nipah in 2018.
With Kerala already reporting two cases, this strategy must be replicated again. The challenge for health authorities is to communicate effectively and with empathy, so that patients manifesting symptoms can access medical help without fearing stigma. In most parts of India, public health is in shambles and can hinder effective response to disease outbreaks. In this context, roping in private hospitals, all registered medical practitioners and even ASHA workers, who are often the only point of contact between citizens and public healthcare in rural areas, becomes very important.
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Source: The Times Of India
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