Silver lining: Respiratory infections dip in Bengaluru, thanks to mask use | Bengaluru News – Times of India


A BBMP marshal keeps watch for people violating the mask rule at a busy market in Bengaluru

BENGALURU: The pandemic has, ironically, resulted in a steep decline in flu and respiratory infections in Bengaluru, thanks to the use of masks, physical distancing, awareness on the importance of hygiene and the schools being closed. Pulmonologists say the decline is nearly 50%.
“The number of anti-flu prescriptions we write for patients has fallen significantly,” said Dr KS Satish, president, Karnataka Pulmonologists’ Association. “We don’t have raw data nor has a study been conducted, but compared to previous years, upper and lower respiratory infections have definitely dropped by 50%. This could be due to the use of masks.”
Dr Ravindra Mehta, chief of pulmonology, Apollo Hospitals, said the winter months —November and December for instance — are generally the busiest for practising Pulmonologists. But that wasn’t the case last year. Dr Mehta believes another contributing factor is the reduction in construction activity in Bengaluru.
“Doctors who are vulnerable to infections during this season and regular patients have told us that they have had no issues this year,” Dr Mehta said. “Awareness on use of masks among those suffering from pre-existing lung conditions and asthma has really helped. It’s true of the general population too.”
However, Dr Satyanarayana Mysore, HOD, dept of pulmonology, Manipal Hospitals, said transmissible infections and upper respiratory tract infections had come down during the lockdown period, but have been gradually increasing now.
“I don’t think wearing masks has played a major role,” Dr Mysore said. “Mask compliance is just about 10%. It is possible wearing masks may have been a contributing factor, but masks have become an ornament on the jaw or like a neck tie serving no purpose.”
Dr Satish conceded that adherence to the mask rule is not 100%, but pointed out that those who are aware, are using masks effectively and that has definitely helped.
“We expect people to use masks effectively as done in Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan,” Dr Satish said. “It’s not possible to keep an eye on every person in a public place all the time and ensure s/he wears a mask. It has to come from within. But people who are aware are wearing masks because of the fear of Covid and that’s keeping them safe from other infections too.”
Multiple factors

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Dr KR Bharat Kumar Reddy, paediatric pulmonologist and director, Shishuka Children’s Hospital, said the reduction in respiratory infection cases can’t be attributed to wearing masks alone.
“Infections have decreased mainly because schools are closed and there is no contact. All these factors have contributed. But we cannot say for sure how much the mask has helped versus physical distancing,” said Dr Reddy.
But doctors are unanimous in saying non-Covid and upper respiratory infections have gradually increased compared to the lockdown period.
Dr Mysore says that the current cold temperature in Bengaluru is keeping allergens and dust at a higher level. On Wednesday, the minimum temperature in Bengaluru was 20 degree Celsius. “Asthmatics are increasingly using tele-consultations to avoid hospital visits. There was a 5% increase in asthma and dust allergy cases in December compared to November,” said Dr Mysore.
Cases of children with asthma attacks are on the rise, said Dr Reddy. “Over the past two weeks, I see 3-4 cases of respiratory infection in a day, which we had not seen during the lockdown. I suggest kids wear a mask while they play and interact with their friends. However, it is not advisable to wear a mask when they are into excessive physical activity or are running,” said Dr Reddy.

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Sagar Biswas

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