‘Heat is not a deterrent for transmission’: Your COVID-19 queries answered

The Hindu had invited readers to send in queries related to COVID-19. Here are answers to selected questions.

Updated - December 03, 2021 06:50 am IST

Published - March 11, 2020 01:00 pm IST

COVID-19 has infected over 1 lakh people across the world

COVID-19 has infected over 1 lakh people across the world

Are there differences between symptoms caused by the flu and COVID-19?

Cough and cold could mean an allergy. A fever with cough and cold is a symptom of the flu. When you have fever with cough which is complicated by breathlessness, it is a symptom of Coronavirus infection and you must call your doctor to rule it out.

Dr KK Aggarwal; President, Confederation of Medical Associations of Asia and Oceania and former president of Indian Medical Association

Can a person exposed to Coronavirus transmit it to others if he/she uses a swimming pool?

Highly unlikely. The Coronavirus is a droplet infection. It has to be inhaled to cause the disease. Chlorination of swimming pools to recommended levels can certainly inactivate any virus, including COVID-19.

Dr Ravi Santosham;Pulmonologist

Is it true that hot weather conditions can prevent COVID-19 transmission? Can sunlight kill the virus?

It can probably inhibit the growth, viability or stability of the virus but to what extent we do not know. If the virus is already in my body and I sneeze, you will get it. There is no question of heat in such situations. We know that it survives in the human body at 37 degree Celsius. So, heat is no deterrent for its transmission. The only probability is that it may not survive in the outside environment. So, to say that the hot Indian summer will inhibit it... no, it will transmit as effectively. But the virus may not survive outside for long. That is the only advantage.

Dr V Ramasubramanian;Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Apollo Hospitals


Will wearing masks prevent the spreading of Coronavirus? What kind of masks should we wear?

For common people, it is not necessary to wear masks. Only people infected with COVID-19 and healthcare professionals, who are in contact with such infected patients, need to use N95 masks. The rest need not wear.

Dr J Euphrasia Latha;Head, Institute of Microbiology, Madras Medical College

If you are travelling to places where the probability of catching the infection is high, say hospitals, you need to wear masks. If you are using public transport system, where you cannot know if somebody will sneeze or cough, you can use a mask. But the main prevention mechanism is to frequently wash your hands and refrain from shaking other people’s hands or hugging them. Follow cough etiquette when you are travelling or outside.

Dr P Kuganantham;Founder-chairman, Indian Public Health Foundation and former Chennai City Health Officer

Should people avoid eating meat based food to prevent transmission?

Eating meat has nothing to do with Coronavirus. It is a respiratory virus and not a food-borne one.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Coronavirus has nothing to do with food or pet animals or eating chicken and mutton. People can eat whatever they want and how much ever they want.

Dr V Ramasubramanian

What measures are being taken in airports to screen passengers for COVID-19 infection?

All international passengers are being screened. On average, at the Chennai airport, at least 6,500 passengers are being screened through the 10 health screening counters. Since the outbreak, we have seen a 27% reduction in the number of passengers at Chennai. On the advice of the Government of India, we are using dedicated aerobridges, immigration counters, X-ray Baggage Inspection Systems, carousel and exit gate for flights operating from 12 countries. All the touch points of passenger flow area like aerobridges, baggage trolleys and floor areas are frequently cleaned. The airport has five automatic sanitiser dispensers. Bottled sanitisers are provided by Airports Authority of India at various points. We have stuck awareness posters, put up digital TV displays and Do’s and Don’ts at passenger flow locations. Awareness programmes are being conducted by National Disaster Response Force and Airport Health Organisation to housekeeping staff for method of cleaning.

Spokesperson;AAI Chennai

How soon can a vaccine be developed for COVID-19?

Novel viruses happen due to reassortment. They remain for a short period and mutate depending on various factors like geography etc. A vaccine for COVID-19 is likely to be developed in another three to six months because the trials are on at the moment. Like H1N1, a vaccine can be developed for COVID-19 too.

Dr P Kuganantham

In the case of a hit-and-run virus like SARS, no vaccine was developed because after six months it did not come back. If COVID-19 too disappears, then there wouldn’t be a need for one.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Is there a link between a person’s immunity and COVID-19 transmission? Is this curable?

Sometimes, the virus enters a person’s lungs and causes pneumonia. People with vulnerable immunity like the elderly succumb to this. Young people with good immunity, the effects of the virus may not be too strong but if you are someone with comorbid conditions like diabetes or cardiac disease, or if you are on immunosuppresive drugs, then the risk of infection is severe.

Dr J Euphrasia Latha

Coronovirus is one of the weakest family of viruses. The deaths caused so far or people affected could have been ones with less immunity like children or the elderly. It does not affect everybody. Yes, 100% immunocompromised people like those with HIV, people with cancer, those who have undergone transplant surgeries or people with diabetes are at risk. Children and elderly are at risk as well. If you take the history of all who died in China or Iran, 90% of them would have been suffering from an illness that compromises their immunity.

Dr P Kuganantham

The average age of virus death is 59. The mortality rate for people aged 60 and above after contracting a viral infection is 3.4%; above 70 years is 8% and 80 and above is 15%. Generally, if the immunity is good, you can tolerate any viral infection but there is no specific evidence as it pertains to COVID-19.

Dr KK Aggarwal

If I have symptoms of COVID-19 virus, should I approach the hospital directly? What if I accidentally pass on the virus to others on the way or at the hospital?

You are not supposed to visit a hospital directly. In Delhi, you must call a hospital or doctor. There are designated centres to give your samples. Depending on your symptoms, a call will be made on what needs to be done, and they will come and collect a sample at your home. You cannot go to a hospital and infect others.

Dr KK Aggarwal

There are helpline numbers to contact. At the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH) in Chennai, there is a separate outpatient section for Coronavirus cases. You can visit here and consult a doctor and leave samples for testing. No other patient will be permitted to access this entrance. RGGGH is the only place in Chennai where samples will be collected for testing.

Dr J Euphrasia Latha

Most people will go to see their family physician or the neighbourhood doctor for treatment. But they will transmit the disease. Only government facilities are equipped to test for Coronavirus.

Dr Ravi Santhosham

Are there any home remedies to treat COVID-19?

Home remedies and treatment other than allopathy is not proven science. The best thing is precaution only. You must keep away from a patient who coughs and sneezes. If you are coughing, you need to cover your face with a mask and not spread the droplets around. COVID-19 spreads through droplets.

Dr J Euphrasia Latha

Why should we consider such opinions and baseless assumptions? Go ahead with home remedies if you want but none of them works on Coronavirus. But go ahead because if you can prove that anything can cure COVID-19 infection, then that is worth a Nobel Prize.

Dr KK Aggarwal

Is India equipped to battle Coronavirus?

We have started late. There are two steps in case of a viral outbreak — preparedness and containment. If you cannot contain, you delay and if you cannot delay, you research and mitigate the circumstances. Preparedness phased cannot be considered now when there already is infection. After 43 cases, now we are going through preparedness. It is a bit of a delayed response. You need both preparedness and containment tactics at the moment. At least, in India, community spread has not happened so far.

Dr KK Aggarwal

We must change the focus of our battle to personal hygiene. For example, during the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the Governments there was able to contain not because of drugs and treatment but by improving personal hygiene. They mandated hand-washing frequently at schools and industries, which helped bring down the cases. For COVID-19, the management is only by handling patients with travel history. They need to be isolated for the incubation period and kept under observation.

Dr P Kuganantham

Compiled by Deepa Alexander, Pradeep Kumar and Priyadarshini Paitandy

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