Coronavirus scare: Fear psychosis grips Indians down with seasonal cold or flu

Published: Mar 18, 2020, 14:37 IST | IANS | Mumbai

All with symptoms, however, must seek regular medical consultation without any fear.

This image has been used for representational purposes only
This image has been used for representational purposes only

Weather change that is associated with common cold cases in India in the month of March-April has left millions of people who are down with a seasonal cough or cold symptoms self-isolating themselves -- an exercise which is only creating unnecessary fear in the country, say health experts.

Doctors are flooded with patients who have a normal cold or flu - along with conditions like anxiety and stress -- in the OPDs. They are very fearful and assuming it might be new coronavirus (COVID-19) disease although they just have seasonal symptoms.

"People having cough or cold symptoms are somewhat scared in view of the COVID-19 outbreak. Some might also fear disclosure in fear of being isolated. People with an anxious and oversensitive predisposition or hypochondriacal and obsessive symptoms are likely to worry a lot and engage in an unreasonably restricted lifestyle," Dr Sameer Malhotra, Head, department of mental health and behavioural science at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Saket told IANS.

Despite the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) declaring there is no community transmission of the new coronavirus yet in the country, people in their sixties suffering from pre-existing conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure are becoming paranoid.

"They want to get themselves screened for it whether or not the symptoms fits the disease. At the same time, they're also worried about their family, especially the elderly," said Dr Mugdha Tapdiya, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, Vasant Kunj.

Health experts are getting flu test, complete blood count and chest X-ray done wherever it is required.

"Once results are not suggestive of the possibility of coronavirus disease, patients are at peace. If there is breathlessness or there are findings in the chest, we also suggest CT scan of the chest area to be done," said Tapdiya.

Yes, there is social pressure, admit doctors.

"In fact, one girl who came to me from an NGO wanted to work from home because she had lots of elderly colleagues.

"She said since I'm suffering from flu, they're asking me to take leave and sit at home, which will be without pay. So there is a lot of social pressure especially in the private companies where people are not getting paid if they're sitting at home, that's why they're hiding symptoms," Tapdiya told IANS.

Our message to the society is that not every cold, cough and fever is COVID-19 disease.

"We need to understand that we are still at the stage II phase of the disease. COVID 19 is still prevalent among the travellers who are from overseas. We need to just relax and not be fearful for our fellow colleagues and household members as well who have symptoms of cold, cough and fever," said Tapdiya.

All with symptoms, however, must seek regular medical consultation without any fear.

Malhotra said that it is important to follow the advisory issued by the government and doctors.

"One does need to be cautious and careful. At the same time, there is a need for more ICU beds and hospitals to avoid any shortage of services. The place of isolation should be comfortable both to the body and the mind, and clean," her added.

Even during the phase of isolation or restricted socialisation, one should try to engage in some constructive hobbies like reading, sorting one's paperwork and listening to music, etc to avoid excessive worry.

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