New Delhi: Quarantine, stress management and symptomatic treatment — these are some of the ways in which authorities in Kerala have been tending to patients infected with the deadly coronavirus.
Doctors in this coastal state heaved a sigh of relief earlier this week after the test results of two confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (nCoV) tested negative. Tests in 67 other suspected patients were also found to be negative.
Currently, there is only one confirmed case in the state.
Three students, who had returned from China’s Wuhan — the epicentre of the outbreak — had tested positive for the infection and were being treated at hospitals in Thrissur, Alappuzha and Kasargod districts.
The Kerala government had Friday withdrawn the “state calamity” status after the sample of the patient being treated at Thrissur medical college, the first-ever case in India, tested negative for infection in a fresh test at the National Institute of Virology’s (NIV) Alappuzha centre.
Rajan Khabragade, the health secretary of Kerala, told ThePrint, “The second patient’s samples have consecutively tested negative and he’s been asymptomatic for the last 72 hours. He will now be under home isolation for the next 28 days.”
While the test results of the first patient have come out negative at the Alappuzha NIV, Khabragade said authorities are awaiting a second round of confirmation from the NIV in Pune in order to declare the case as cured.
Mental health counselling, symptomatic treatment
While scientists and pharmaceutical companies are yet to find a cure, patients infected by the virus are being treated for symptoms ranging from mild fever to pneumonia.
In Kerala, doctors are giving patients supportive medicines as well as counselling to reduce stress.
“The three patients in Kerala had very mild symptoms. So we have given them supportive medicines like paracetamol and others drugs related to their needs. This also includes medication for cold and cough,” said Dr Amar Fetle, who is in-charge of the anti-nCoV task force in the state.
The Drug Controller General of India had last week approved the “restricted use” of a combination of anti-HIV drugs along with other medicines used as a possible therapy against coronavirus in China.
Fetle, however, said these drugs were not prescribed for the infected patients in Kerala and said additional support in the form of mental health counseling was being given.
“A live counseling hotline is being used to provide stress relief to the affected people. The mental health division is in constant contact with patients and giving them good psychological support. That itself plays a big part in the recovery process,” he added.
Health Secretary Khabragade confirmed that “none of the cases” in Kerala had deteriorated to the point of contracting pneumonia. “They only have usual symptoms of sore throat and mild fever.”
Dr A.V. Jayakrishnan, a member of the Indian Medical Association’s ethics committee and a former chief of the body’s Kerala chapter, told ThePrint that those kept under isolation are being prescribed symptomatic treatment only if they have respiratory symptoms.
“Antiviral agents (used in HIV positive cases) will be used for some confirmed symptomatic cases…in other symptomatic ones, if there is only mild fever, paracetamol will be used,” he added.
As of Sunday, 3,252 people have been kept under surveillance and 3,218 under home quarantine in the state.
“Patient number three is also doing perfectly well clinically although his tests are still positive,” Dr Fetle said.