LAHORE: A training workshop was recently organized at University of Health Sciences, Lahore. The event was attended by veteran virologist Prof Waheed-uz-Zaman Tariq, Head of Infectious Diseases’ department, Chughtai Institute of Pathology, UHS Vice Chancellor, Prof Javed Akram, Director General Health Services Punjab, Dr Haroon Jahangi. Dr Sidra Saleem, Head of UHS Microbiology department and Dr Fatima Mukthar, Professor of Community Medicine, Lahore Medical and Dental College also spoke on the occasion. Microbiologists, pathologist, rescue workers and health personnel from civil aviation attended the training workshop.
While addressing the audience, Health experts were of the view that outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus in China should be a cause of caution but not for alarm.
“The story of the coronavirus, first reported in China last month, now seems to be reaching the point where public concern tips into worry and even fear,” said Prof Waheeduz Zaman. He added that sounding the alarm unnecessarily had dangers of its own.
“People may fail to pay heed next time, or may overreact this time. Equally, muting discussions can backfire, especially in a world where information can be shared so quickly. It is essential that authorities at all levels are open about this outbreak, as well as assiduous in tackling it,” Waheed suggested.
Prof Waheed further said, “New outbreaks are worrying, but give us opportunities to improve our preparation for the next threat, be that through research, or an understanding that communication is as essential to disease control as hand-washing and vaccines.”
Zaman, however, cautioned that as too little information was available to draw firm conclusions about this virus, its dangers, therefore, should not be discounted.
“Its cost has already been felt by the young, the elderly and those with existing medical issues, and there is concern that it could mutate into something worse,” Prof Waheed said, adding that the virus, likely to spread through coughing and sneezing, had now sickened more than 6,000 people and killed 135 in China.
UHS Vice Chancellor said the new strain of coronavirus, a family of pathogens that caused respiratory illness in birds and mammals, has jumped species and infected humans. As the pneumonia-causing virus has triggered a health scare in China, it would be sensible to be concerned.
Prof Javed Akram said the UHS would extend full support to the government in optimizing PCR test facilities for diagnosis of coronavirus. Akram said a six-member committee comprising varsity’s faculty had been constituted. Dr Shah Jahan was the convenor of the committee, Prof Javed told.
The Prof Akram said ablution was the most effective preventive measure against coronavirus. He said the Islamic concept of Hilal and the traditional way of cooking food minimised the risk of getting infected with the virus.
Akram further said that as compared to common masks available in market, N95 masks had proved more effective in prevention.
Director General Health Services Punjab said not a single case of coronavirus had been confirmed in the country. He said the government was in contact with the World Health Organization which had not declared coronavirus an epidemic so far.
Dr Haroon informed the audience that five airports of the province had been linked to nearby teaching hospitals to avert the threat of transfer of virus through passengers coming from abroad. He also lauded the efforts of the UHS for creating awareness on the issue.