Disease burden might increase drastically if Covid-19 & air pollution get combined: Dr Randeep Guleria

New Delhi: There is an urgent need to look for sustainable solutions and be more aggressive towards controlling air pollution, more so during this year because with Covid-19 pandemic being around and still showing an increase in the number of cases, it can lead to a huge burden of disease if both of them get combined, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director, Dr Randeep Guleria said in an ASSOCHAM webinar today.

“There is definitely an on-going wave, especially in many parts of India, and air pollution is making it worse. So we need to act on multiple fronts to get hold as far as this pandemic is concerned,” said Dr Guleria addressing an ASSOCHAM webinar on ‘COVID-19 – Coming of the Second Wave: Myth or Reality.’

Dr Guleria said that Delhi is facing a double whammy of air pollution and Covid-19 as the virus can survive for a long time in air pollution, which can cause more severe diseases.

He added, “There is no doubt that we are having a second wave but possibly multiple waves in different parts of the country as the number of cases increases. In our hospital we had created a facility with almost 1,500 beds for Covid patients, we had during June-July almost 900 patients admitted during a given point in time, it came down to about 200, but now again it is rising, and we have more than 500 Covid positive patients.”

The AIIMS Director also said that since the unlock has happened, the hospital’s load has increased significantly as now it is facing a huge load as far as the number of cases of Covid and non-Covid are increasing which were not there during the lockdown, and that is causing a huge strain on healthcare facilities.

He outlined three major reasons for the rise in Covid-19 cases – Covid fatigue and lack of Covid appropriate behaviour as people are crowding and not wearing masks; respiratory viruses peak during winter months and Delhi’s poor air quality leading to rise in air pollution.

Dr Guleria said that there is data suggesting that mortality during air pollution continues to be high. “Every year in our hospital, we have done a study where we have followed all our admissions in an emergency for two years and what we found was that whenever the air quality index worsened there was an increase in admissions both in children and adults for respiratory diseases in next 5-6 days. This is being shown for the last 2-3 years, now with air pollution and Covid-19 this is going to become a huge burden.”

He also said that during this time of year there is an increase in allergic disorders – sneezing, running nose and a large number of cases of flu, therefore it becomes challenging in differentiating between upper respiratory manifestations. “So, I think all individuals who have an influenza-like illness like fever, sore throat, headache, body ache, cough should at least get themselves tested for Covid-19.”

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