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Infectious expert debunks popular myths related to COVID-19

Karachi: COVID-19 cases are decreasing, but the surge can be anticipated after Eid-ul-Azha if citizens are not cautious. The process of meat distribution should be done by observing preventive measures.

Referring to preventive guidelines for COVID-19, Dr Syed Faisal Mahmood, Associate Professor & Section Head, Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Agha Khan University Hospital (AKUH) said earlier, COVID-19 cases were facing surge, but in July, a major drop can be seen.

Dr Syed Faisal Mahmood, Associate Professor & Section Head, Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Agha Khan University Hospital (AKUH)

He spoke at a live session organized by President Rotary Club Karachi Creek, Durdaana Arshad Malik on the topic, ‘COVID-19: Making sense of the madness.’ The event was presided by Dr Farhan Essa, District Governor, District 3271, and Dr Jewat Sunder, Chairman, Disease and Prevention. The moderator for the event was Sophia Chishty, Co-Founder, Augment Care. 

He shared that though the COVID-19 tests are still happening in a large number, it’s the ratio of positive cases that have decreased, which is a good sign of progress. The reason behind the decrease is still unknown, though it must be multifactorial. He highlighted that it could be due to early lockdown opening, contact tracing, and post-super-spreader event.

Dr Mahmood said that he doesn’t believe that ‘in-built immunity’ has a major role to play in a decrease of cases as not much research has been done on this factor. Similarly, many sources believe that it’s the high temperature or extreme weather condition that puts off the virus, which he also rejected.

He also shared that it’s been said that COVID-19 disease can be spread from animals, which might not be true. “I haven’t seen any animal which has contracted COVID-19. But still, people need to be cautious before going into animal markets since animal to human transmission has not been documented yet and it’s a work in progress.”

When asked about testing modalities, Dr Faisal told not to repeat tests to discontinue isolation. “I have to make this clear that PCR tests cannot tell between live and dead virus. I have to shatter this myth, but the presence of antibodies cannot tell about recovery. One cannot use antibody tests as a marker of immunity or see if they have recovered from it.”

Highlighting the aspects of reinfection, Dr Faisal said that it has been unclear whether SARS-COV-2 will act like its counterpart viruses. “Seasonal coronaviruses can cause infection every year. But no one can tell how this one will work. For now, I can suggest continuing precautionary steps even if someone has had the infection before.”

Dr Faisal told that the vaccine for COVID-19 could not be available anytime soon. “Vaccine development is an extremely slow process. There are steps of exploratory, preclinical trials, clinical trials, FDA approvals, and manufacturing that usually takes 10-15 years. Even if experts try to overlap these steps, we still can’t have a vaccine sooner than 2021.”

By Dr Muattar Hanif



July 29, 2020

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