Coronavirus scare: Use breathalysers with caution, say doctors


HEATH | FEB 4, 2020:

With coronavirus cases mounting in China and three people testing positive for it in Kerala, residents of Hyderabad on Monday wrote to the police to stop the use of breathalysers saying they could help spread the disease.

In Hyderabad, 20 people with coronavirus symptoms have approached Fever Hospital. Their blood and swab samples have been sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

But physicians say it will not be correct to do away with breathalysers, a device used by the police for measuring the amount of alcohol in a driver's breath.

Atul Kaker, senior consultant at Sir Gangaram Hospital, said, "Why should the police end using breathalysers? It's important for finding drunken drivers."

Stating that such viruses can be transmitted through various other mediums, like door knobs and public amenities, the doctor said, the police could always go for disposable breathalysers. "You can't ask for ending its use," he said.

Former Indian Medical Association (IMA) president K.K. Agarwal said, "All respiratory instruments should be equipped with a hepa filter or they can use disposable instruments with droplet precautions. A person with flu standing 3 feet away from the person who is testing him can pass the infection. The best practice for the traffic cops will be to wear disposable gloves and masks."

Manjeetha Nath Das, senior internal medicine consultant at Columbia Asia Hospital, told IANS, "Breathing in breathalysers can potentially cause various communicable diseases to people with weak immunity. The attachments should be sterilised and cleaned before giving using it for the next person."

P Venkata Krishnan of the internal medicine department at Paras Hospital said, "There are chances of catching diseases and illnesses that are highly communicable, like coronavirus. I would advise that the attachment in which people blow should be changed for every person and as the next person can get diseases if the use device is used."