Experts fear flare-up in winter

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With mercury dipping, experts in Kashmir fear COVID19 cases may rise due to ‘more favourable weather for viruses’ and social distance and ventilation going for a toss.

The fall in the number of SARS-CoV2 cases in J&K has been brewing optimism regarding the curve getting stable and even slumping here, however, experts sound caution with the weather change.

“All respiratory viral infections are more common in winters,” said Prof Parvaiz A Koul, Head of the Internal and Pulmonary Medicine at SKIMS, Soura and a renowned researcher on influenza.

Although SARS-CoV2 is a new virus and it was hoped that warmer weather will help in reduction of infections, that was not seen and the load of disease continued to be high, he said.

Prof Koul said that H1N1 and other influenzas follow a seasonal pattern and their circulation is high in winters.

“Smog is also there which could contribute,” he said.

Moreover, he said, “Temperature drop will play havoc with social distancing and proper ventilation of infected surroundings, perpetuating transmission.”

Prof Naveed Nazir Shah, Head of the Department of Pulmonology at Government Medical College Srinagar said complications in patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and other respiratory ailments increases in winters and that would lead to more testing in symptomatic cases and more detection.

In addition, he said, there was a high possibility of clusters of infected people within families and offices.

“In winters, people tend to congregate in one warm room, heated by a fuel heater, electric heater or a Hamam where all the vents – doors and windows are closed and even sealed with cellophane or some other wrap,” he said.

This, he said, would result in a high load of virus, if there is an infected person in that room and in turn a high possibility of inmates getting infected.

He said research had shown that the possibility of getting infected was more in a poorly-ventilated environment and due to spending a longer period with an infected person without face masks.

He said people need to remember that not all infected people have symptoms, although they can infect others.

“We cannot tell if someone has COVID19 by looking at their face,” he said.

Prof Shah cautioned against congregations of every kind.

“Whether you are in office or home, maintain distance and keep the fresh air coming,” he said.

Prof Koul warned people to be extra cautious in routine infection control.

“Avoid first and second-hand smoke and vaccinate against influenza,” he said.

Prof Koul said a healthy respiratory system was more likely to fight off COVID19 better.

“Ventilation is extremely important. So, one must avoid congregated settings, proximity to those with infections and observe adherence to medication,” he said.

Prof Koul said COVID19 fatalities were a grim reminder of how fragile the situation still was.

“We sure do not wish anything bad for our family members and those who are going out, meeting people, or are sick, must prevent any behaviour that can bring the infection home and then spread it,” he said.