Health

Everything You Need to Know About How to Deal With Coronavirus If You Live in India

From where to get yourself tested to if that bottle of vodka lying around is an effective sanitiser to whether we need to stock up, here’s an India-specific guide to fighting COVID-19.
09 March 2020, 1:00am
Everything You Need to Know About How to Deal With Coronavirus If You Live in India
A man helps a woman wear a mask at the metro rail station during an awareness campaign by doctors from a government hospital demonstrating preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Bangalore on March 5, 2020. Photo: Manjunath Kiran / AFP

This article originally appeared on VICE India.

As the novel COVID-19 virus spreads across the world, the number of people infected with coronavirus has now risen to 98,773. But while more than 3,390 people have died due to the deadly and highly contagious disease, 55,693 people have also managed to recover. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronavirus has a mortality rate of 3.4 percent and will likely be similar to the flu or a common cold if dealt with effectively.

So even as the number of confirmed cases in India goes up to 31, with some suspected cases, there’s still a fighting chance for anyone infected to overcome the virus. But in case you’re confused what the deal is with preventing and recovering from COVID-19, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about coronavirus, especially if you live in India.

What Indian states have people tested positive in?

31 people in India have tested positive for the coronavirus, 14 of which happen to be Italian tourists and their Indian tour guide, who were vacationing in Jaipur. While the virus first caught on in Kerala, cases have now spread across New Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, and Telangana, with more suspected cases in parts of Maharashtra like Mumbai and Nashik, Bengaluru in Karnataka, and Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Most of these either had recent travel history in China, Italy and Iran or were in touch with people who visited the countries dealing with a surge of coronavirus cases.

Is there any vaccine or cure?

While scientists are developing a vaccine they say could be launched by next year, there is still no cure for coronavirus. The recommended treatment, for now, involves isolating the patient for up to 14 days to reduce the risk of them passing on the infection.

How do I know if I have coronavirus?

See a doctor if you start developing symptoms like cough, cold, fever, pneumonia, muscle aches, or digestive issues. Some people have even reported symptoms like difficulty in breathing, headache, sore throat and diarrhoea. If these symptoms continue for a few days or if you have recently travelled to China, Iran, Italy or Korea or been in close contact with someone who has, you should get yourself tested for coronavirus at the nearest testing centre.

Where can I get myself tested?

Currently, state governments are still in the process of setting up testing centres in states like Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Odisha, Tripura and Chhattisgarh. Depending on where you live, these are the clinics or hospitals you could visit to get yourself tested:

Delhi - AIIMS / Safdarjung Hospital or Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital
Maharashtra - IGGMC, Nagpur, Kasturba Medical College, Mumbai and National Institute of Virology, Pune
Rajasthan - SMS, Jaipur
West Bengal - NICED, Kolkata
Assam - GMC, Guwahati
Karnataka - BMCRI, Bengaluru; NIV Field Unit, Bengaluru
Tamil Nadu - KIPMR, Chennai
Kerala - NIV Field Unit, Alapuzzha
Gujarat - BJ Medical College, Ahmedabad
Telangana - Gandhi Medical College, Secunderabad

What exactly is the coronavirus test?

There are five types of tests that can determine whether you have the COVID-19 infection. These include: swab tests which take a special cotton swab and swipe the inside of your throat; a nasal asphiate in which the lab will inject a nasal solution and then take it out with a suction; a tracheal aspirate in which a thin tube called a bronchoscope goes into your lungs; a sputum test which samples a special variety of mucus; and a blood test.

What can I do to prevent myself from getting infected?

Since we’ve basically grown up with the phrase “prevention is better than cure” embedded into our brains, keeping yourself sanitised is the first step. This means washing your hands frequently, not touching your face, and covering your mouth and nose with a face mask if you’re coughing or sneezing.

However, while face masks are effective for those showing symptoms, if you don’t have a scratchy throat or a nose constantly scrunching up with sneezes, you probably don’t need a mask. Especially considering masks are in such short supply everywhere, pushing people to use plastic bags and even bras as substitutes, it’s probably best you leave the mask on the shelf for medical professionals who need it more unless you show symptoms.

Can I use gaumutra (cow urine) or other cow products to cure myself?

No. There is no scientific evidence that supports cow byproducts being the remedy for coronavirus, even as some Indian politicians and organisations continue to advocate it. Unless you want to be stuck smelling like cow piss, please avoid such suggestions.

What about ayurveda or homeopathy?

Even though this has been recommended by India’s official ayurvedic ministry AYUSH, both ayurveda and homeopathy are also pseudoscientific alternatives. However, these herbs do have some immunity-boosting properties, and can be taken along with other flu or pneumonia medication, but should not be relied on as a complete cure.

If I can’t get my hands on sanitiser, can I use alcohol instead?

As the supply of hand sanitisers falls short, many online recipes recommend a mix of rubbing alcohol and aloe vera as a substitute for sanitiser. However, replacing the alcohol in this recipe with ethanol, which is what vodka or Old Monk we like to guzzle on weekends contain, probably won’t work. The Center for Disease Prevention and Control specifically says that any sanitiser should contain 60 percent alcohol, while a bottle of Old Monk only contains about 40 percent. So just save the alcohol for cocktails just in case you’re quarantined.

What should I keep in mind in case I need to quarantine myself?

If you are showing symptoms and have got yourself examined or have tested positive for coronavirus, make sure you keep yourself quarantined for at least 14 days, after which you can decide to extend that time period based on your signs and speed of recovery, and a doctor’s consultation. People who are sick should treat COVID-19 symptoms like they would treat any illness: drink plenty of liquids, rest and sleep a lot, and try a humidifier or hot shower to alleviate symptoms.

It goes without saying that avoiding contact with anyone, even your significant other, is crucial. And just in case you get bored, take a cue from these infected patients in China, who pass the time with everything from memes to online parties.

Should I be stocking up?

We all have that one friend who’s returned from the supermarket armed with five years’ supply of canned beans, tissue paper and packaged food. Experts recommend keeping a 14-day supply of food and medications for any number of non-coronavirus related situations (like weather-related emergencies or natural disasters), but anything beyond that is overkill.

Will eating chicken and eggs give me coronavirus?

No, coronavirus is not an angry ‘avatar’ unleashed into the world to punish non-vegetarians. However, while the myth that eating chicken and eggs can give you coronavirus isn’t true, uncooked meat and eggs could compromise your immunity.

Should I stop eating at Chinese and Italian restaurants or buying stuff from China online?

No, this won’t prevent you from becoming a coronavirus patient. It just makes you racist.

The CDC has also issued a statement saying that it's unlikely the coronavirus can pass through packaging or letters since these surfaces are not hospitable conditions for the virus to survive for days in ambient temperatures.

What about avoiding my Chinese neighbour/colleague?

Once again, only racist.

Can my pet also get infected?

This has been a major concern ever since a pet dog in Hong Kong tested “weakly positive” for coronavirus. However, this could also be because they were in the vicinity of an infected person. While there is no official confirmation that pets can get coronavirus, Dr. Kenneth Tong, a vet at Animal & Avian Veterinary Clinic in Singapore, told VICE that such viruses are usually species-specific and won’t have the same effect on animals as it would on humans. However, it’s still better to take precautions and put your pet on house arrest, make sure you feed them fully cooked meat and maintain your personal hygiene.

Even if I’m not sick, should I cancel all my travel plans and become a homebody?

While it’s advisable to avoid travelling to any of the nations with many reported cases of coronavirus, if you aren’t showing symptoms, you probably don’t need to just stay at home all the time. There’s a lot of misinformation and fear mongering around going out in the time of coronavirus, but as long as you have taken effective preventive measures, you should be fine. If you do get on a plane, take steps to limit your contact with germs. Research suggests that passengers who sit in a window seat are less likely to get sick. Also, disinfect hard surfaces like your tray table and arm rests when you first sit down.

If I recover from coronavirus, can I get it again?

Coronavirus is still a relatively new illness and there’s a lot we don’t know about it. However, there has been an incident of a patient who recovered from coronavirus dying five days after. Currently, the Chinese state media have reported that we should all assume that even if coronavirus does go away, it could very well creep in again and infect an individual twice.

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