Males more vulnerable to COVID-19: AIIMS Director (IANS Interview)

Source : IANS
Author : IANS
Last Updated: Tue, Mar 17th, 2020, 18:59:52hrs


By Tuesday, almost three months after the new strain of the virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, it had already claimed close to 7,500 lives globally. Spreading to more than 125 countries, infecting more than 1.5 lakh people globally and termed a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, the COVID-19 puzzle was yet to be cracked.

Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, told IANS that from the data that the medical community has studied so far it appears males are more prone to get the infection rather than females.

"It is a new strain of the coronavirus. You will not get it from your pet, you will not pass it to your pet. It has mutated to infect humans. And immunity against this particular strain of the virus is not found in humans.

"One interesting trend is also it has occurred more in men compared to women," said Guleria, as a study in Wuhan also revealed that the virus might be affecting people with A type blood.

The AIIMS chief said that the reason for such trend was still unknown. "I don't know if it is women's immunity system that is protecting them or which may be better than males.

"The data that has come from China, shows that people who have severe illness are more men than women," he added.

He also cautioned that it is still premature to be certain about all such facts because the health community is still in the process of collecting relevant data.

"There are some trends which have to be analysed in a better manner -- whether the virus is behaving differently in different age groups, in higher risk groups or in different gender.

"We need more data to conclude," Guleria told IANS.

Talking about the 'Herd immunity theory' that the UK has reportedly adopted to contain the disease, Guleria said that although a few countries are adopting 'herd immunity' theory but the consequences may be very drastic.

Herd immunity means that 60 per cent of the population which is healthier and at lesser risk, the country allows them to get the infection and recover from their own immunity.

"Countries should adopt such policies with caution because there is a risk that mortality rate can spike and can put a strain on the health infrastructure of the country.

"As far as our country is concerned, we are on the right track in containing the disease," he said, adding "suppose we allow a healthy person to get the infection, he may recover but can spread the infection to his elderly parents. Therefore such policies should be adopted with a lot of caution."

The doctor said that the virus had mutated itself and there was hardly any chances that pets could transmit the virus to humans or visa versa, as against widely accepted perception among people in the country.

Guleria also highlighted that mobile phones could be a medium for the spread of the pathogen.

"This virus can survive on surfaces for many hours therefore it is possible that one can get infection using mobile phone if it has been touched by an infected person and there are other factors too, which make mobile phones a better surface for the virus to breed.

"Therefore it is advised to clean your phones also on a regular basis, besides maintaining personal hygiene."

Talking about chances of pregnant women transmitting the virus to their babies, Guleria said there was less data available regarding that.

"Pregnant women have not been considered in the higher risk group as per the data available so far. But there are chances of intrauterine growth-retarded infant which is commonly defined as one weighing less or chances of abortion may increase.

There were more mortality in Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) when pregnant women were also in the higher risk group.

Rebutting the myth that drinking alcohol or doing gargles with it could help save from the infection as is being widely spread on social media, Guleria said "drinking alcohol or doing gargle with it is by no means helpful in saving oneself from the infection".

"When we rub our hands with alcohol-based sanitizer the virus becomes ineffective but once it enters our cells, it multiplies itself and alcohol cannot kill it. Rather drinking too much alcohol will weaken the immunity and there are more chances of getting the infection in that case," said Guleria.

--IANS
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