There was utter panic two days ago when one of the cooks who works in the apartment complex I reside in called in sick. She had fever, body ache and exhaustion. The Whatsapp groups were buzzing with the word COVID-19 being used heavily. Residents were making plans to go get themselves tested given that the cook worked in at least five households.
However, the local doctor had told the poor woman that she had the common flu and all she needed was two days of rest and medicines. This brings up an important question – when should one get tested for Covid-19, what symptoms should we look out for?
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) answered some of these questions for us.
When Should You Get Tested for COVID-19?
1. Anyone who has travelled abroad in the past 14 days and has symptoms like fever, cough, or difficulty in breathing
2. Asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of an infected person should be tested between day 5 and day 14 of coming into contact with the infected person
3. Any health care worker looking after COVID-19 patients who develops symptoms or those who are exposed to a confirmed case
4. Any direct or high-risk contacts — those living in the same house and health care workers who come in contact without proper personal protective equipment – even if they do not have the symptoms
5. All patients hospitalised with Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI), which involves a history of a fever higher than 38 °C (100.4 °F) and cough for over 10 days
Symptoms that May Appear After 2-14 Days of COVID-19 Exposure:
2. Dry cough
3. Shortness of breath (Extreme cases)
5. Diarrhea (Some cases)
Dr S Pandit, a physician from Mumbai who has seen a surge in the number of patients visiting and calling him says, “First and foremost we need to ensure that there is no panic. Staying at home and reducing our contact with others will help combat COVID-19 to a very large extent.”
He goes on to say that staying at home, eating nutritious home-cooked meals, maintaining social distancing, and not consuming alcohol or smoking will help us.
When Should You Go to The Hospital?
Dr Pandit recommends that you stay in contact with your medical professional while getting treated for the fever and cold. “Paracetamol is what we are prescribing to patients who have the above mentioned symptoms. If the fever persists and there is difficulty in breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, then you need to get to a hospital,” he says.
How To Get to The Hospital?
“It is not advisable that you take any sort of public transport to get to the hospital. Either drive yourself or call for a taxi, but ensure that you do not touch anything. You also have the option of calling for an ambulance,” he suggests.
ICMR has also issued certain guidelines for private sector laboratories intending to initiate COVID19 testing. It is imperative that these are followed:
• Laboratory tests should be only offered when prescribed by a qualified physician as per ICMR guidelines for testing.
• ICMR will share the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for laboratory testing and provide positive controls for establishing the test as soon as the concerned private laboratory has procured the primers, probes and reagents as per SOPs. Adoption of commercial kits for testing should be based on validations conducted by ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.
• Appropriate biosafety and biosecurity precautions should be ensured while collecting samples from a suspect patient. Alternatively, a disease-specific separate collection site may be created
• All the private testing laboratories must ensure immediate/ real-time reporting to the State officials of IDSP (Integrated Disease Surveillance Program of Govt. of India) and ICMR headquarters for timely initiation of contact tracing and research activities.
• ICMR strongly appeals that private laboratories should offer COVID19 diagnosis at no cost.
Stay safe and stay indoors!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)