A man from Chittoor district suffering from a urinary tract infection took his own life after he mistook his symptoms for those of coronavirus. 54-year-old Balakrishnayya from Thottambedu village visited the Ruia Government General Hospital on Saturday for a medical consultation. According to his family members, miscommunication with the doctors led him to believe that he had coronavirus.
"We told him that he did not have coronavirus, but he refused to let us near him. He told all the villagers to stay away. He would tell them that their kids would also end up contracting it if they came close to him," Balakrishnayya's son told reporters.
According to his son, the man went to Ruia hospital for a checkup, as his heart rate was high. The doctors told him about the problem 'in their style', his son said, but Balakrishnayya believed it was coronavirus.
His wife told reporters that the doctors told him he had an infection and told him to wear a mask to avoid contracting other infections. "He didn't have much awareness. He started to behave strangely on Saturday. And by Monday morning, he killed himself," she said.
According to his son, Balakrishnayya had panicked immensely, and started to believe he was a threat to the family and the village. "He started slinging stones at us when we tried to go near him. He said he needs to end his life immediately as he was a danger to the village. He told us not to come close and locked himself in," he said.
Balakrishnayya's case seems to have been aggravated due to widespread misinformation on the disease, combined with insufficient measures by health officials in spreading awareness and calming people in such cases of false alarm.
His son said that the man saw a lot of videos on symptoms of coronavirus, and became convinced that he was affected. "I had made calls to contact those who could create awareness and help him. I called 1100, 108, 100 but did not get a proper response. In the future, please respond and spread awareness," he said.
Chittoor District Medical and Health Officer (DMHO) Dr M Chenchulayya said that awareness programs are being held across the state. "There are no coronavirus cases anywhere in the district or the state. We are creating awareness daily through the papers and ensuring people know about it," he said.
"We are conducting meetings in hospitals, we have printed pamphlets and banners for every village with information regarding coronavirus. All the PHC doctors have also been provided with training and awareness, and funds for printing awareness pamphlets," Chenchulayya added.
The coronavirus outbreak has been caused by a new strain of this virus. It belongs to the same family of viruses which cause SARS and MERS. The symptoms of an infection are very similar to that of a common cold: cough, cold, runny nose and fever. There are two masks, the normal surgical masks are worn by patients/infected people to not spread the germs to others. The n95 mask is what is being recommended to keep yourself safe from accidentally inhaling or coming in contact with the virus in the air droplets.
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(This story was first published in The News Minute and has been published with permission)