Trust in science and medicine | HT editorial
Don’t believe rumours about unproven cures for coronavirusUpdated: Feb 09, 2020 18:41 IST
As the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) toll overtook the 774 deaths worldwide from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2002-2003, which had been the biggest coronavirus outbreak to date, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the outbreak was stabilising, but warned that it was still too early to predict if the virus had peaked. India is screening all passengers coming from China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand at 21 airports and major sea and land ports.
With Kerala quickly identifying and containing 2019-nCoV importation cases among three students from Wuhan and everyone they had come in contact with since they got infected, India has, so far, escaped the worst of the virus. The WHO estimates that the incubation period of the virus — the time a person takes between getting infected and showing symptoms — is about two to 10 days, so everyone with symptoms will be retested on day 14 of the quarantine period to ensure that they are disease-free. The Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology (NIV) is among a global support network of 15 specialised referral laboratories. Apart from the NIV, the National Centre for Disease Control in New Delhi and 13 Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratories nationwide are testing for the 2019-nCoV to get results faster, including for its neighbours.
The big challenge for India is to maintain the urgency to stop the infection, and ensure patients and medical staff follow quarantine protocols and reject the rumours and magic remedies being widely shared on social media. Commercial promoters of alternative systems of medicine are already selling unproven cures quoting a misguided, unscientific claim by the Ministry of Ayush that certain local remedies can prevent 2019-nCoV infection. There is also high resistance to being screened and tested among the public, with many contacts of suspected cases not reporting symptoms to evade quarantine, which is forcing the government to go door-to-door to ensure compliance and stop localised outbreaks. For if that happens, India’s high population density will lead to the infection spreading like wildfire. Trust in science and medicine is the only way to end the outbreak once and for all.