Coronavirus cases continue to mount in China and across the world. With 3 people in the state of Kerala having been confirmed to be positive for the virus, an NGO in Hyderabad has written to the police asking them to stop using breathalyzers, concerned that the device might spread the disease.
The NGO -- Vaada Foundation, has said that the use of breath analyzers could spread the deadly virus. In a letter to Hyderabad Police Commissioner, P. Suresh Raju, founder, Vaada Foundation, said,"The use of breath analyzers in the current scenario is highly unhygienic and can be one of the avenues through which the virus can spread to a lot of people," he said.
This brings up a very important question, can coronavirus be spread via breathalyzers? TNM reached out to experts to find out.
“In general, the use of breathalyzers is not hygienic. It has nothing to do with the coronavirus in particular. It is just not good practice to put something in the mouth without proper sterilization, even the thermometer at the doctor’s clinic is one example of this,” states one virologist who wished to remain anonymous, to TNM.
Physicians have stated that it would not be apt to get rid of breathalyzers altogether. These devices are used by the police for measuring alcohol content in one's breath.
Another doctor from Hyderabad’s Institute of Preventive Medicine (IPM) stated to TNM that while it has been known that the virus spreads via droplets in the air from infected individuals, there are chances of exposure to the virus through other means, but that these have yet to be confirmed.
“The best thing to do is to take all precautions and maintain personal hygiene. People must wash their hands more frequently and rest and isolate themselves if they get sick,” he added.
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 the 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."
However, not all experts agree. "Why should the police end using breathalysers? It's important for finding drunk drivers,” Atul Kaker, senior consultant at Sir Gangaram Hospital stated to IANS. He further added that the virus could be spread through other mediums such as door knobs and public amenities and recommended that police opt for disposable breathalyzers.
(With IANS inputs)