Srinagar: With temperature falling and cases of COVID19 and other respiratory infections rising, doctors in Kashmir have appealed to people to don masks while in proximity of anyone, or in closed, crowded surroundings. Use of masks, research shows, reduces chances of respiratory infections significantly.
Many International Health Advisory bodies have increased their advocacy of masks citing available research data that shows reduction in airborne and respiratory infections with optimum and correct use.
Prof Parvaiz A Koul, ex-head department of Internal and Pulmonary Medicine at SKIMS Soura and Vice Chairman of Middle East, Eurasia and Africa Influenza Stakeholders Network (MENA ISN) said that locally, the research data shows that since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, when people starting using masks and adopting other infection control measures such as washing hands and social distancing, the circulation of influenza viruses has dropped to “nearly zero”. He said the reduced circulation was observed in spite of rather high tourist traffic to the region with tourists from all over the country and outside flocking to Kashmir for the winter months.
Prof Koul said these findings were published in “Lung India” and were significant given that the World Health Organization had also reported near wiping of Influenza circulation. Non pharmacological interventions have been proved to reduce transmission of COVID and while it was being practiced for COVID, researchers noted a drastic reduction in circulation of other respiratory viruses. “This was despite the fact that only influenza has a vaccine against it but even its circulation disappeared in both hemispheres,” he said.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) USA has issued a statement that the use of facemasks could reduce the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV2 by 80 percent. Prof Koul said that the statement was a significant one and must strengthen the resolve of people to continue using masks as the weather becomes conducive for spread of many viral respiratory infections and in view of the continued risk of SARS-CoV2 infection.
Prof Naveed Nazir Shah, head department of Chest Medicine at GMC Srinagar said that masks and vaccination were the only two weapons that were available against SARS-CoV2 and Influenza. “Of course COVID19 is much more transmissible than Influenza and masks are a strong weapon in prevention of disease and deaths,” he said. He warned people against laxity in mask and social distancing protocols. “We are at a precarious position at the moment and it is upto people to decide how they want the COVID19 to behave in Kashmir – rage around or slow down,” he said.