Chai With

Chai With… Dr. Mandeep Rai, Infectious Disease Consultant

01 May 20

With COVID-19 all over the news and on people’s mind, we thought it would be good to have a virtual conversation with Dr. Mandeep Rai, an Infectious Disease consultant to help educate our community on what all the news mean and how they can keep themselves safe.  
With all the conflicting information out there, we didn’t know how to separate myth from fact and to decide what to believe and what not to believe.  According to Dr. Rai, COVID is definitely not the flu!  It is more contagious and is thought to linger in air droplets and stay afloat in the air for longer periods of time as compared to the flu.   Also, it can survive on environmental surfaces for at least a few hours.  That is why there is so much emphasis on hand washing, not touching your face, and cleaning contaminated surfaces.  While majority o folks may experience a similar “flu like illness,” in certain patients it can cause sever breathing, kidney, clotting, and heart problems – something that does not happen with the flu.  And, unlike the flu, there is no proven treatment yet or a vaccine.  
While we know not to go to public places and avoid large gatherings, what about visiting immediate friends and family.   Dr Rai’s advice is that it is just as critical to avoid friends and family as well as large gatherings to reduce the number of patients who are circulating the virus.  Patients early in the disease transmit the virus very efficiently.  
The purpose of the quarantine period is to unmask all the undetected cases.  This quarantine time is being used to put procedures in place to make workplaces and public places safer to use and to equip hospitals to take care of COVID patients.   Since this started, there has been a tremendous increase in testing capacity and there are potential ways to trace the contacts of a COVID patient and try to limit the spread.  There are many procedures in place in the hospitals to treat patients safely, while keeping nurses, respiratory techs, doctors, and other front-line workers safe.  
We know to go to the doctor’s office or the hospital when extremely sick, but times have changed.  We took this opportunity to ask Dr. Rai on guidance around preventative checks, cihldren’s regular check-ups, and regular non-critical appointments.  Are we putting ourselves at risk by going out to keep these or  should we be delaying these office visits to when the quarantine period is over?   Per Dr. Rai, the doctors’ offices are taking a lot of precautions to keep their patients safe: staggering patients, cleaning/sanitizing, the rooms, and bundling care into one visit.  If you don’t have symptoms such as fever/cough, call your doctor’s office and keep all appointments.   If you have cough or fever symptoms, call the office and let them know.   It is very important to let the office know if you are symptomatic prior to your visit, so that they can keep you and other patients safe.Routine women (well check visits) are generally being rescheduled to open up time for staggering antenatal/ post-partum visits and the same is true for children’s doctors visits.Offices are keeping well child and sick child visits separate as usual , generally with different waiting areas.  It is important to keep the routine immunization visit if your child is not sick.  
When asked about outdoor activities, Dr. Rai also agreed that activities such as hiking, biking are safe because they allow social distancing.  However, be aware of the heat advisories especially in our state.   In terms of travel, airlines are now taking many precautions such as asking passengers to wear home made masks, cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, having the crew wear masks, curtailing food and beverage service.   While it is thought that air travel is safer than bus or train because of frequent air exchanges, travel only if essential.   
There is still a lot we do not know about COVID.  Many questions are being asked about serological testing/antibody testing to see if someone has had the disease and is protected.  We do not know if the COVID infection induces protective immunity.  In another 2 weeks or so, the medical community hopes to have better tests.  The current tests have a lot of false positives.  
Asia Today thanks Dr. Rai for her time.  We are happy to do a follow-up with Dr. Rai in our next edition.  If you have questions about COVID-19 you would like answered, please email them to