Save the lives of the people most exposed to the pandemic | Opinion – analysis
In November, the world learned of the first cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) that emerged from the Chinese province of Hubei. On January 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a public health emergency.
The virus is part of the respiratory coronavirus family that causes the common cold, and most recently caused the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic. Common symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, tiredness and dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, aches and, in some cases, diarrhea, nausea, and a runny nose. The first studies indicate that almost 85% of those infected have a mild illness, while 15% require hospitalization and 5% need intensive care. About 1-3% can succumb to infection.
Older adults (over 60) with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes (especially if poorly controlled), hypertension, and heart disease, are generally the most vulnerable to the virus. There is a three to four times greater risk of poor results in this category of people. The primary target of infection is the lungs; people with chronic lung disease are also susceptible.
So what can people with diabetes do to stay safe? First, keep meal times. Second, maintain a healthy and nutritious diet and stay hydrated. Diets should include adequate vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Sunlight or supplements will allow an adequate level of vitamin D, since food is a poor source. They should include a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods, such as vegetables and fruits. Ensuring adequate protein is also important. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are best avoided, and healthy fats should be used instead of saturated or transfat fats. Third, have an exercise plan for the day – it could be on the treadmill or one can go for static cycling, yoga, or an app-based program. Fourth, don’t ignore the stressful. Participate in indoor activities that you enjoy. Fifth, don’t give up on medication and make sure supplies don’t run out. Sixth, connect with your doctors to make sure you get guidance in case of any emergency. And finally, take your pneumonia and flu shots, if you haven’t already.
We must remember that those who belong to the high risk category need special care. Families and caregivers should ensure that their blood sugar levels and blood pressure are checked and monitored regularly, and that “sick day guidelines” are followed for any illness. They must practice social isolation in this period. By targeting the most susceptible population, we can minimize the damage inflicted by the virus.
The escalation of the pandemic has also led to an outbreak of misinformation. For example, many may have read about how eating garlic can help prevent infection. While garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties, there is no evidence to show that it can protect you from the virus. Another recent social media post claims that drinking baking soda and lemon juice reduces acidity in the body and the risk of becoming infected with Covid-19. This idea could have arisen from the shared theory online that “alkalizing” diets help prevent cancer. This is not valid for Covid-19.
Prevention and safety are of utmost importance. It’s also important not to panic and diligently curb misinformation and rumors. As I enter the most critical phase of the epidemic in India, I urge everyone to follow official guidelines and fight together against the coronavirus. The ministry of health, the Indian Council of Medical Research, experts and, most importantly, our healthcare providers are leading this fight from the front. Now it is up to us to support them.
Ambrish Mithal is President (Endocrinology and Diabetes), Max Healthcare
The opinions expressed are personal.