G.N BHAT & DR NAWAB JAN DAR
The novel coronavirus is named as SARS-CoV-2. SARS-Cov was first reported in Asia in February 2003, though cases subsequently were tracked to late 2002. SARS quickly spread to about two dozen countries before being contained after about four months. Since 2004, there have been no known SARS cases. MERS-CoV was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to more than 27 other countries, according to the World Health Organization. Research evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV, and the original SARS-CoV all originated in bats. SARS-CoV then spread from infected civets to people, while MERS-CoV spreads through infected dromedary camels to people. Scientists are trying to determine how SARS-CoV-2 spread to people. All these infections cause severe viral respiratory illness. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person.
Scientists across the world are busy with working on transmission mechanisms, new diagnostics, developing preventive and therapeutic strategies and to understand the biology of virus and host virus interactions to develop vaccines and trying existing antivirals against COVID 19. The virus is transmitted from human to human, although animal to human transmission was also presumed because the first case of COVID 19 disease was linked to Huanan seafood wholesale market of Wuhan, though subsequent cases were not associated with zoonotic transmission. The transmission is believed to occur through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing by COVID 19 infected persons. The incubation period of the virus (the time between exposure until symptoms develop) ranges from 2 to 14 days. This means the real problem lies here, “An infected person may spread it rapidly before they know of their infection.” The common symptoms of the disease include cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat, body-aches, tiredness, difficulty in breathing, etc. However, this is not always true as these symptoms resemble/overlap with other flu symptoms. So, the confirmatory report needs to identify this virus in the samples taken from patients using a technique called real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR).
Keeping in view the huge loss of lives, global leaders and experts unanimously decided “lockdown is the only strategy as of now” to prevent further spread, thereby promoting “STAY HOME” practice. Many experts claim that the epicentre in Kashmir will be hospitals. The unfortunate part is that our health care workers are equipped with limited personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 filtering facepiece respirators, plastic gowns, and goggles. Nor do we have enough Doctor: Patient ratio nor the number of necessary ventilators.
Unfortunately in Kashmir, everybody is trying to become an expert on how to deal with this pandemic. Remember, “Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing”. We are witnessing common folk giving their expert opinion, advice, recommendations and what not on social media. Better would have been if we stuck to the expert opinions and followed them.
Recently, some studies using antimalarial drugs like Hydroxychloroquine in combination with Azithromycin have been demonstrated to have antiviral activity against COVID-19. However, this needs to be validated scientifically using large number of patients before it could be advised for the general public. A US couple who began to show some flu-like symptoms purchased chloroquine phosphate from a pet store which is normally used as additive to clean fish tanks and consumed the same. The man has reportedly died, and his wife is in critical condition, So we request all those who are reading this article, please don’t be experts, everything on internet is not true.
It seems that Kashmir is looking at this pandemic with a different perspective. People, mostly in rural areas, are still following the routine of evening gatherings which take place mostly in front of local shops where they discuss everything about the virus. We fail to understand why people are not taking it seriously and it could be either that there is no case in their surroundings or they are misguided that it doesn’t affect youth. Youth are latent carriers and every household in Kashmir has elders who are prone to this disease. Please understand this and take it seriously. There is an immediate need of individual and collective efforts and the negligence of a minority may sink the boat of the majority. If, God forbid, the virus enters in community transfer stage in Kashmir, are we ready to handle it? The need of an hour is to follow the guidelines, health care advisories, and cooperate with the administration at every level, be it preliminary screening or staying home.
Remember, there is no vaccine as of now against the disease and even if one is developed within the next six months, it will take at least a year to reach Kashmir. Following precautionary measures, social distancing, and staying home are the only options we have to stop the spread of this disease.
—GN Bhat is with School Education Department, J&K, and Dr Nawab Jan Dar is Postdoctoral Fellow, UT Health, San Antonio, Texas USA