Does sneeze or cough mean COVID-19? Paranoia grips callers, say helpline workers

More than their daily dose of essentials or apprehension of when the lockdown will be eased, a sneeze or cough seems to bother many.

Published: 23rd April 2020 04:28 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd April 2020 05:00 PM   |  A+A-

A representative picture of a middle aged man outside his office suffering from a persistent cough.


CHENNAI: "Am I COVID-19 infected if I sneeze?", "Can I consume meat in view of the virus outbreak?" -- these are some of the queries landing at a government helpline, seeking expert advice on the viral infection and dietary issues amidst the spread of the deadly contagion.

More than their daily dose of essentials or apprehension of when the lockdown will be eased, a sneeze or cough seems to bother many.

Afraid of contracting the disease, the callers to the 104 government helpline seek clarification if sneeze or cough could mean symptoms for COVID-19, those handling the queries said.

"We receive hundreds of calls daily from those in the city and other parts of the state and many among them display anxiety that they may have been infected with the virus because they sneezed or coughed," Shylaja (name changed) who attends the calls, said.

She is part of a team of nearly a dozen counsellors, which include nutritionists, who guide the people during the lockdown being enforced to combat the spread of COVID-19.

With many clinics closed following instruction from the government as a precaution to focus on the fight mostly against the pandemic, people exercise the option of the helpline.

"People become so anxious that they fail to realise that common sneezing is caused by allergy. We explain the symptoms (of coronavirus) and ask if they have a history of travel to any of the COVID-19 affected countries or were in contact with those under home isolation, and offer guidance accordingly," she added.

People also are concerned if their liking for meat could land them in a quarantine ward and public queries revolve around this issue too, those handling the helpline said.

A nutritionist said, "We advise them to cook the meat well before consuming, if they are particular on eating non- vegetarian food. There are other callers who ask for an ideal diet to enhance their immunity."

Such people are advised to eat freshly prepared meals on time and supplement them with fruits and vegetables.

"Even Amla or orange could be consumed to boost one's immunity," she said, sharing what she advices the callers who ring up the helpline for tips on immunity.

Incidentally, the poultry industry in Tamil Nadu earlier faced issues following rumours that eating chicken could lead to the spread of the pandemic.

Much explanation had to be done both by the industry and the state government to convince the people that consuming chicken will not result in coronavirus.

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