Shun panic, social stigma over COVID-19; take preventive steps, say experts


Amid battling COVID-19, authorities in Telangana are also up against social stigma attached to the disease with a few people even taking the extreme step of ending their lives over fears of its fallout including being ostracised.

Experts say such fears were totally uncalled for and that social stigma was posing a challenge as they pitch for sensitising the people that coronavirus can infect anyone.

Instead of becoming paranoid, the focus should be on taking adequate preventive steps and remaining courageous even in case of testing positive for the virus, doctors said.

The advice of the doctors assumes significance in the wake of a few individuals committing suicide in recent weeks in Telangana out of fear, either before testing positive or after.

On Tuesday, a 60-year old man from Karimnagar hanged himself in the washroom of his room at a private hospital where he was undertreatment for COVID-19 with his family members saying he was under panic after testing positive.

Also, there have been instances of landlords asking tenants to vacate after the latter tested positive and residents not allowing infected people to enter villages.

Dr B Nagender, Superintendent of the state-run Osmania General Hospital (OGH) here, who was cured of COVID-19, said the recovery rate was high and that people need not nurture fears over the virus.

“There will be some fear (after testing positive). But once, if you retain courage, there will be improvement. Many people are recovering, unless there are a lot of risk factors such as old age, uncontrolled blood sugar, hypertension…

Otherwise, it is like viral fever… If it is mild, many people are taking treatment from home,” he told P T I.

Those having moderate or severe symptoms need further medical attention, he said.

Nagender, who took treatment at the state-run Gandhi hospital and the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in the city, said panicking would be unhelpful.

He stressed that one needs to stay strong and that he did not take treatment at any private hospital.

Renowned medical doctor and president of the Association of Surgeons of India P Raghu Ram said social stigma associated with COVID-19 was truly a major challenge.

With fear and concern associated with the new virus, there was bound to be a lot of misinformation resulting in anxiety and prejudice against people and community, eventually leading to hostility and stigma, he said.

“We must come to terms with the fact that COVID-19 can affect anyone. Instead of becoming paranoid and living in fear, we must take adequate preventive steps social distancing, frequently washing our hands and wearing a mask in public places,” he told P T I.

Despite taking all the possible precautions, if one gets infected, it is important not to panic, Raghu Ram said.

The vast majority have only mild infections and it is curable in most cases with early and effective treatment.

However, by hiding the illness and not seeking timely medical help, there is every possibility that the infection can cause significant morbidity and even mortality, he said.

Observing that frontline healthcare workers are working selflessly, putting their lives at risk, he said they deserve to be supported and appreciated during these times.

“However, ostracising and targeting them just because they are working with COVID patients will demoralise the fraternity, which will undoubtedly, weaken our fight against this invisible enemy,” he added.


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