Experts urge people to stay home, break chain of virus transmission

Mar 21 2020

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Despite frequent pleas from the authorities to maintain social distancing, kids play in close proximity near the Quaid’s mazar on Friday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Despite frequent pleas from the authorities to maintain social distancing, kids play in close proximity near the Quaid’s mazar on Friday.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: As the health department announced on Friday the first death from Covid-19 in Sindh, health experts appealed to the people to stay home and strictly adhere to basic hygiene measures to break the chain of coronavirus transmission.

Otherwise, they warned, the cost of ignorance and negligence could be high, particularly for the elderly.

The 77-year-old who died of coronavirus at a private Karachi hospital had other health complications but did not have any (known) travel or contact history with an infected person.

According to experts, while they are still learning about Covid-19, the information so far available suggests that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. They include older adults (65 and above), people who have serious underlying medical conditions, such as heart diseases, diabetes and lung diseases.

Younger family members advised to avoid physical contact with elderly people

“The preventive measures for the old and the young are the same and the most important one is to stay home, at least for 14 days as has been asked by the government, and follow basic hygiene practices that would provide protection against all kinds of viral infections,” replied Dr Naseem Salahuddin when asked about how to ensure protection of the elderly at home.

Dr Salahuddin, a senior infectious diseases expert currently associated with the Indus Hospital, said the people should visit health facilities these days only when they had an emergency or required some life-saving treatment like dialysis.

“Under government instructions, outpatient departments have been shut down for two weeks and elective surgeries have also been postponed at hospitals,” she explained, adding people should consult doctors on the phone for minor illnesses.

It is necessary to know that coronavirus spreads through droplets that travel in the air. The droplets from an infected person’s cough or sneeze can travel a maximum of six feet on the nearest surface and may live up to many days. The WHO shares that it is possible to get coronavirus infection even by touching these infected surfaces where these respiratory droplets settle.

Limiting physical contact

Experts have advised younger family members to avoid physical contact with the elderly, if they can take care of their basic needs.

And, if they are dependent, the caretaker should strictly adhere to preventive guidelines on coronavirus, which include washing hands with any soap for 20 seconds, covering mouth and nose while sneezing and coughing, avoiding contact with an infected patient or surface and public interaction and wearing a face mask if you are sick.

The guidelines also include not touching face, eyes, and nose after touching any unclean surface.

The experts suggest that these measures, small as some of them may be, would help slow down the epidemic — currently the only way to overcome the public health crisis in absence of any specific effective treatment and vaccine against the coronavirus.

Earlier in the day, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho in a video message announced the first death from Covid-19 in the province and warned the people to avoid contact with elderly persons.

“You may infect the elderly [persons] unknowingly if you are carrying the virus. Hence, it is important to avoid (physical) contact with them,” she said

“The 77-year-old had cancer, diabetes and blood pressure. Hence, his health condition was already compromised when he got the coronavirus infection,” she explained.

She also warned that the virus was now spreading in the local community in people with no known history of contact with an infected person.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2020