My Covid updates ( September 2020)

Ok so it’s time for my monthly update on Covid, so here goes . Addressing common questions based on science, research and common sense..

Q: Whats the status of vaccine ?

A. There are many labs working on this across world with top 8to 10 in lead . Phase 3 trials on humans are happening as we speak . Atleast 3 or 4 may get approvals this year or early next year . Many countries including India has preordered. Efficacy of best vaccines in this scenario will be 60to 75%. But the time of manufacturing and distribution across 1.4 billion of us will take time ... optimistic mid next year / realistic end next year ( just a sensible guess)

Q: Is the worst behind us and how long will the pandemic last ?

A: We don’t know. Different countries will have different timeline depending on the preventive measures public takes . Mid next year will be able to give a fair idea on these questions as our treatment protocols will mature and status of vaccine will be clear.

Q: When can a person return safely to work or be with family after being Covid positive ?

A: Covid patient is non contagious after 12 to 14 days of first symptoms. Some people may be positive on RTPCR even after this duration but that is mostly due to debris/ protein wall of dead virus. That is why an exit test is now not mandatory to end isolation period.

Q: Can a person get reinfected ?

A: The chances of reinfection as of now are rare. We will get to know more as time goes by. We still do not know how long the antibodies last post infection ( also there is T cell immunity working which we don’t measure as it’s a complex process). This question is best left to us clinicians and researchers to debate in our academic sessions . General public should not be concerned with this and carry on with standard precautions even after recovering from Covid.

Q: Will we achieve herd immunity before vaccine ?

A: No, for this atleast 60 to 65% people need to be infected. This is a humongous number given our population. We don’t have enough sero survey data but at best we must be around 10% infected as of now.

Q: Is it true that Indians have less fatality rate by Covid ?

A: Yes that’s true as per sero survey. If u do not have comorbidities, your chances of being asymptomatic or mild Covid illness with high survival rate are very very high. In India there are many many more deaths with tuberculosis and cancer everyday then Covid. But that doesn’t mean we become complacent... precautions are must .

Q. Should children be allowed to go to school ?

A: In India only 11% kids have access to digital platforms. Going forward they will need to go to school with all due precautions. Children’s resilience is much better then adults and there have been very very few cases of hospitalisation with Covid and even lesser deaths .Ultimately it’s a government policy decision based on many local pandemic factors of an area. For eg. perhaps Kerala can open school earlier as compared to Maharashtra or Delhi NCR

Q. Should I wear a mask while walking/ jogging/cycling?

A: If u are in open space and not with many people around , u don’t need to wear a mask

Q: Is flying safe ?

A: I have taken four flights after lockdown lifted and with due precautions it is not considered a high risk. Planes have HEPA filtration for air . Mainly one has to safeguard the route of entry of virus which means nose , mouth and to some extent eyes . Keep ur mask and some glasses on thru out the journey till u reach home and shower . Do not take off ur mask to eat in domestic flights, am sure few hours not eating won’t harm us ! If it’s an international flight , please request ur next seat passenger to eat before of after you so that both of you are not without masks at same time

Q: Is going to gym safe ?

A: This may hurt a few people and buisness owners , but it comes under risk area due to closed space and sharing of equipments. Also mask and social distancing becomes a challenge during work outs in gym.

Q. Can we go to restaurants/ pubs ?

A. Again if it’s not crowded, adequate distancing between seating is maintained, sanitisation SOPs are in place ... yes you may. Have been to a few dining places in Gurgaon and felt ok. Outdoor seating would be safer then closed cramped places . People with comorbidities and vulnerable elderlies should avoid.

Q: Should I keep having immune boosters like kadha, haldi etc etc ?

A: There is nothing like immunity boosters . It’s a well wisher generated hype. We are all born with certain innate immunity and then depending on our lifestyle we gradually develop various level of immunity over years . U can have kadha or haldi ... no harm but don’t over do it. People have reported with liver problems due to excessive indulgence in these. Adequate sleep, daily exercise, balanced meals and stress free life are the best immunity mantras.

Q. Are people still taking hydroxychloroquine as prevention for Covid ... what does research say ?

A: So we now have many studies from various countries including India ( Max hospitals too has done a large sample study on this) and it’s proven that HCQS has no significant role, though some institutions are still recommending it. There is research going on for role of ivermectin in prevention now .

Q. Where do we stand with various treatment options like Remdesivir, favipiravir,blood thinners, dexamethasone, plasma Transplant etc etc ?

A. Leave this for the doctors to discuss amongst themselves. Most people will become ok with symptomatic treatment at home . Do not self medicate in case of symptoms and seek medical attention. TRUST YOUR DOCTOR.

Q. So how do we move forward ?

A. We have to stay away from both panic and denial. MASK up always when stepping out ( this is the biggest game changer in controlling the pandemic), keep social distance even at work and with friends while socialising and sanitise / wash hands frequently. Stay optimistic, spread positive energy..... Do not watch news everyday and have digital sunset time :)

Regards.
Dr Parul Sharma
PS: These info are to best of my knowledge only and may change over a period of time as we keep learning about this pandemic.

Tips for covid prevention:

  • Social distancing and masks is the main key . Make a habit of being atleast 3feet away ( ideally 6 ft) when interacting with ANYONE. Please don’t touch the mask or bring it down while talking to people. Make sure it’s snuggly fit on nose . Mask also prevents you from accidentally touching your nose and mouth which are the ports of entry of virus on our hands . Avoid wearing masks with valves.
  • Wash or sanitise your hands many times a day. (Ideally every two hours ). We can’t clean all surfaces but the vector between surface and entry port ( nose and mouth ) is hands , so wash them frequently
  • Avoid touching surfaces specially in public places. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth in public places
  • Avoid very close proximity interaction and if necessary ( like going for a haircut to saloon) keep it less then 15 to 20 mins and don’t talk much to avoid aerosol spread .
  • Normalise Covid , don’t stigmatise it. Don’t talk about someone having it in hushed voices . It’s OK !! get used to increasing numbers closer to you. Eventually most of us will have it
  • Settle down with the new norm, don’t wait for a vaccine or a miracle . Instead prepare urself mentally, physically and emotionally to move ahead with this reality which may last for a year or two. It’s the collective human spirit which will help us fight this battle .
  • Let’s create HOPE and alleviate fear . After all... THIS TOO SHALL PASS if we behave responsibly.