Dr. Prabal Roy is a general surgeon specializing in advanced laparoscopic, obesity, and endovascular (varicose veins) surgery. He is currently Director of the Department of General, Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery at QRG Healthcity, Faridabad, Haryana, India. He is currently in the frontline of the battle against Covid-19. In this interview, Devadeep Chowdhury discusses pertinent questions that we face during this time.
Q: What preventive measures can one do to boost immunity at home? Diet, exercise, general tips can be helpful.
A: Immunity can be a very specific term. It is not generic. You can improve your health but not immunity. Immunity kicks in only when one is ill with the virus. Immunity is like a shield for arrows or like a coat in the winter — you would not use it if it is not needed under very specific circumstances.
But one can take measures at home to improve overall health so that if and when someone contracts the Coronavirus, they are in the best shape to fight it. For achieving that, one must have a balanced, healthy diet. Simple and regular exercise helps too. One must keep in mind that smokers are at high risk of complications if they catch the virus because they have patchy lungs — and Coronavirus affects the lungs. So smoking or vaping should be cut down.
Q: If one catches the milder version of the Coronavirus, what guidelines should one follow to not relapse? Also, what should they do to get better?
A: See, there is no milder version of the Coronavirus. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. There is a well-thought-out guideline that the Government of India has created through an algorithm. It is as follows: anybody with flu-like symptoms must visit a doctor. These symptoms are dry cough, fever, cold, and headache. The doctor will advise a test after examining the patient and enquiring about their travel history, and also ask if they have come in contact with people who have any travel history. Keep in mind that the doctor will only ask for a test if they feel that the symptoms are indicative of Covid-19 and can’t diagnose any other cause for the symptoms.
The first test will be done on day 5 of the fever and it will be followed by a test on day 7. People with positive results have to stay back in the hospital and will undergo treatment. It is possible right now as the health care system isn’t overburdened and can still treat patients in isolation. If widespread community transmission happens, the scenario will change and people with milder symptoms will have to stay at home. But, as of now, it is recommended to anyone with any symptom to contact their nearest health facility.
Q: Is the malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine or the TB vaccine everyone is talking about actually effective?
A: So, one must understand that hydroxychloroquine is a preventive drug in this case. Certain relaxation of their usage has been permitted by various medical bodies like the Indian Council for Medical Research. It means that under special circumstances it can be taken only by health professionals who are treating patients with Covid-19 or caregivers who are in close touch with such patients. The dosage is twice: 400 mg on the 1st day, and then once each for the next 7 days. The administration of this drug may reduce Covid-19 symptoms. It has been recommended only for this purpose. Doctors who are treating Covid-19 patients are supposed to work for 7 days and then quarantine themselves for 14 days. So if they take this drug and come back to work, they might have much milder symptoms which would be helpful for them to continue to treat patients.