[ Nellie N Manpoong ]
When Charles Darwin came up with his theory of the ‘survival of the fittest’, he most certainly knew that the human race was going to mess up in ridiculously large proportions.
So, when this reporter caught the flu only weeks after she had her first bout with the ‘changing-weather flu’ of the year, she flew into panic mode. It is certainly not advisable to panic at every sneeze, cough or fever, but it is a cause of concern when there is the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the doctors in your state have not been issued any instructions whatsoever on what measures have to be taken if a possible case is detected.
While the state’s health minister claims that the health department is on “high alert,” and has a rapid response team, besides isolation wards and a 24×7 control room, it should be noted that there is negligible advisory from the health department on Covid-19. All the doctors this daily contacted informed that they have not been provided any instructions on what to do with patients who have Covid-19 symptoms, which are similar to flu symptoms.
As per some officials of the Tomo Riba Institute of Health & Medical Sciences, isolation wards have been created in some districts, but one cannot simply be put into isolation without tests.
Notably, there are only three testing centres in the Northeast at the moment – at the Guwahati Medical College, Assam, the RMRC, Dibrugarh, and the GMC, Agartala, as per the list of testing centres available with this daily. Swab samples can be sent to these testing centres, and the result can be received within 24 hours. Additionally, it is advisable not to get confused when a doctor asks you to get a blood test done. While blood tests do not verify Covid-19, doctors may ask for such tests to eliminate other illnesses.
The public understands that testing labs cannot be set up in every state and every hospital, but setting up a mechanism to send samples to the existing labs should be the health department’s top priority at the moment. Although there is a criterion for patients to fulfill before they can even qualify to provide a throat swab or naso-pharynx sample, the fact that the doctors here have not been issued any directives on taking samples could make anyone panic. There is little the common man can do, and only hope to survive the flu, or possible typhoid, and pray that it is not Covid-19.
Based on first impressions, this disease is being brought in by those who have travelled abroad, indicating that most of them can afford medication and treatment at private hospitals and clinics. However, the private clinics and hospitals in the state have also not been issued any directives even on isolating suspected cases, let alone taking samples for testing.
It is also disappointing to learn that the only advisory the state has issued at this moment is the notification by the forest department, putting a ban on consumption of wild meat. Also, the chief secretary very recently issued a temporary suspension on issuing protected area permits to visitors to keep, as I like to put it, ‘foreign bodies’ out. Other than that, the government is yet to prepare any large-scale health advisory for the people of the state.
For the people in apocalypse mode: Stock piling of face masks, hand sanitizers and rolls or piles of tissues is not advisable as it could lead to a shortage for health professionals in the long run.
Jokes and memes on the internet claiming that the flu or road accidents kill more people annually are also making people miss the point. If the common cold kills more people, then those with symptoms should get immediate medical attention instead of passing it on to others. Road accidents are also more or less the result of lack of responsibility on the part of either of the parties involved, and we cannot say that they are on the same playing field of death.
While the state government seems least bothered, we need to help ourselves and others around us by taking preventive measures, if nothing else.
While I am recovering, there is no guarantee that everyone will. During such situations, it is natural that most of us turn into uncertified doctors, but it is essential to remember that it is not always safe to self-medicate and experiment with unverified methods. Take precautionary measures and undergo self-isolation, avoid shaking hands, and be courteous enough to cover your faces when sneezing or coughing. It is not a matter of overreacting when the other person tries to maintain a safe distance when you cough or sneeze on them. It is simply a matter of good etiquette.
The fight for survival is on!