Dec 15 2020


Disrupting our lives in a harrowing tailspin since March 2020, the COVID19 pandemic has emerged into a global health crisis that has sent the world into a frenzy. From triggering an economic crisis, disrupting social machineries, uprooting supply chains and wreaking havoc on public health - the pandemic has been a nightmare for all. 

In India, the past eight months have seen over 216,919 people contract the virus, with new hotspots emerging every now & then. Besides the surge in death rates & prevalence of misinformation on the internet, it only further heightened the fear of the masses, leaving us in a state of hopelessness & despair.

To help us get through these difficult times, ManipalCigna Health Insurance as a custodian of health & well-being invited Dr. Narottam Puri (Advisor, Medical Operations at Fortis Healthcare) for an exclusive webinar under the recently launched WECARE- ManipalCigna’s disease management program that aims to protect your loved ones from the rise of infectious diseases.

Dr. Puri is an Emeritus consultant – ENT & Head & Neck Surgery as well as Advisor – Medical Operations at Fortis Healthcare. He is also Ex-Chairman at NABH and Advisor with FICCI, as well as a Director & Board, ManipalCigna Health Insurance. Apart from holding four decades of experience in dealing with upper respiratory ailments, Dr. Puri also happens to be a popular cricket commentator, sports journalist & a broadcaster. A multi-faceted personality, Dr. Puri also donned the hat of a quizzer on Doordarshan for almost 18 years.

The goal of this webinar was to educate the audience, dispel common myths & misconceptions regarding COVID-19 & build a sense of transparency with credible & trustworthy sources of information.

The webinar was aired on the 7th of November 2020, co-hosted by Mrs. Priya Gilibile, COO, Human Resources, at ManipalCigna Health Insurance. The event was marked by various questions raised by concerned masses surrounding respiratory diseases like COVID-19 and the precautionary measures to follow to stay safe and healthy. Dr. Puri’s rich experience in handling respiratory diseases served as a treasure trove of knowledge and brought about the much-needed awareness required to tide through the prevailing crisis.

It all started with a brief discussion on the respiration system & why it is imperative to understand its relevance during a time such as this. Dr. Puri began by highlighting crucial facts about COVID-19 and how this respiratory virus can also lead to adverse effects on other vital organs. In what was planned to be an insightful webinar to cast aside myths and misinformation surrounding COVID-19, Dr. Puri and Mrs. Priya Gilbile, in their conversation, also went on to address several common questions and social practices that are to be remembered in our battle against this pandemic.

Following are a set of questions & answers addressed in the webinar that may serve as a credible source of information for everyone to ensure personal well-being for themselves and their families in these trying times.

Question: How do we differentiate between COVID19 & a generic fatigue or malaise?

Dr. Puri: It is not easy to make a difference between the two from a clinical perspective. However, there are a few general pointers that can be of help. A COVID-19 patient is generally asymptomatic for the first 5 days. One can expect to see symptoms after this. The incubation lasts between 1-14 days and complications are expected to arise from the 9th or 11th day onwards. Some of the common symptoms in the first 5 days include cold, sore throat, slight fever & body ache. The fever does not exceed 100.4 However, in some cases, high fever is also experienced.

The second thing is that sore throat as a symptom is far from dominant than the nasal symptom (blocked, stuffy nose etc). If it’s just a flu, chances are that one will experience frequent sneeze, bouts of fluid running & a nose blockage. However, one must note that the symptoms are comparatively much less as compared to COVID-19.

Another valuable thing to note here is that COVID-19 causes many patients to experience a sudden loss of smell. The best way to differentiate between a flu & COVID-19 is by simply taking a decongested nose drop or a little steam. If it’s a flu, your nose will open up shortly & your ability to smell will return. But with COVID-19, it won't. In fact, clinicians have suggested that with COVID-19 a RT, PCR test is not required.

Question: Is it true that men are more vulnerable to COVID-19 compared to women?

Dr. Puri: As a matter of fact, it is true. This just goes to prove that women are the stronger sex. While all the details are not known, it is certain that if a woman catches the COVID-19 virus, her immune response is mediated by the T cells which is considered to be more stable & long lasting. In the case of men, the same kind of response occurs through enzymes, chemo coins & cytokines which are not as stable.

Question: If a mother is afflicted with COVID19, can she continue breastfeeding her baby?

Dr. Puri: While there is not much literature available on this, we can say that this virus is not transmitted through milk. Therefore, it can be considered to breastfeed your child. WHO also provides guidelines of breastfeeding during a viral epidemic. Another paper in the UK also mentions breastfeeding. If the patient is COVID-19 positive, it would be best to give milk to the child a little away from the mother. If that is not possible, then all possible precautions such as wearing a mask, cleanliness & hygiene must be strictly followed. But as of now, the information available indicates the COVID-19 is not transmitted through milk. Therefore, it is safe for consumption.

Question: Are children less than the age of 5 vulnerable to the virus? Should children be allowed to go back to school?

Dr. Puri: Good question! Luckily, this disease does not easily affect children. In fact, kids can be carrying the virus, but the severity is rare. However, that does not mean we start sending our kids to school. Online teaching could play an important role in checking the spread of this virus. I say this because children tend to be asymptomatic carriers. So when they go home from school, they could easily infect their parents, grand-parents, relatives & so on.

Also, let’s keep in mind that maintaining a six feet distance is quite difficult & challenging to do. Children, after all, will be children & it is possible that the transmission will be at its peak every time they meet. This could actually lead several communities falling sick simultaneously. So, at the present moment, let us stick to taking classes at home.

Question: Will the COVID-19 vaccine end this pandemic?

Dr. Puri: The vaccine is not a panacea. When you have a respiratory virus like COVID-19, vaccines don't have a complete effect. In fact, a proper vaccine can only leverage your immunity & work with 60-70% efficiency. Even in the case of influenza vaccine, you may still get the disease despite getting vaccinated. The only difference is that your severity will be reduced. Therefore, I say that a vaccine can not provide you with 100% coverage. So, the whole idea of taking your masks off & going out for parties can not happen at least for another year.

Question: Routine influenza & Influvac Tetra seem to provide protection against COVID-19. Fact or myth?

Dr. Puri: There is no proof that influenza vaccine can provide any protection against COVID-19. The reason why many people have assumed this is because influenza has quite a few similar symptoms as compared to COVID-19 & the quadrivalent vaccine that is available these days is primarily & mainly for influenza. COVID-19 is out of the picture. Some might believe that it is true, but there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim.

We thank Dr. Puri for agreeing to do this, and Mrs. Priya Gilbile for being a wonderful host in making this webinar thoroughly engaging. At ManipalCigna Health Insurance, we have always stood by our customers in illness and wellness, and we couldn't be more glad to be able to bring this to all as part of the WECARE program, launched to extend additional support to our customers amidst this pandemic and help them stay safe.

While the battle against the virus is going to be a long and difficult one, we can protect ourselves & those around us by continuing to follow social distancing rules, increase intake of vitamins, be mindful of our health, and always wear our masks when stepping out.  We have also launched a campaign called #MaskZarooriHai, an initiative to encourage the wearing of masks to contain the spread of COVID-19. You can also be a part of our campaign today and safeguard yourself & your communities from coronavirus. Simply visit here and spread the word using customized ManipalCigna AR filters. After all, we are in this together, and together we will see rise above the odds.

Along with these safety precautions, it is crucial to practice other preventive measures simultaneously. This includes the regular consumption of superfoods, getting a good night’s rest, at least 30 minutes of physical exercise, meditation & slowing down the hustle in your professional life in case there’s a feeling of mental fatigue or stress. ManipalCigna’s WECARE program is crafted with precision to help our customers with all these and more while providing easy access to quality healthcare in this pandemic.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.