The number of patients with fever, cough and cold turning up at hospital has decreased drastically. These symptoms are similar to those of coronavirus.
"This will increase the risk of coronavirus cases going undetected, and will spread the deadly virus," Professor Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University told The Business Standard.
Professor Nazrul, a renowned virologist, said, "Many patients do not go to hospital unless they are severely ill, as seeking treatment for symptoms of flu were causing problems for them. This is augmenting the risk of spreading the coronavirus."
"If a patient's symptoms appear abnormal, he might be treated in isolation. But if patients do not come to hospital even when they are infected with the coronavirus, it might spread to his family and others," he added.
Sources at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital (SSMCH), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in the capital said recently they were getting a lower number of patients suffering from the common cold.
One week ago, a one stop service centre for patients with fever, sneezing, and cough, was launched at the Suhrawardy Medical College, where 150 patients used to come daily on average. But there were only 50 patients there on Sunday, said sources.
Director of the hospital Dr Uttam Barua said, "The number of patients admitted to hospital has decreased due to a panic over the coronavirus. The outdoor is almost empty too as patients coming with the common flu has decreased."
Professor Mujibur Rahman, chairman of Department of Medicine at the DMCH, said the fact that fewer patients are coming to the hospital does not mean that people are not falling ill.
"People are not coming out because of fear. They do not come to the hospital if they have mild symptoms. The number of patients with flu is much lower this week than at any other time," said Professor Mujibur.
This might worsen the situation, said Professor Muzaherul Huq, former adviser of WHO's Southeast Asia region.
Professor Muzaherul told the Business Standard, "If any patient with the coronavirus remains undetected, he will infect three other people on average. So, testing patients with flu symptoms and identifying coronavirus patients is very important."
Meanwhile, the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University has stopped admitting regular patients in the hospital amid fear of coronavirus spread.
However, the Dr ASM Alamgir Hossain, chief scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said there is not much risk of coronavirus cases remaining undetected as the scope of tests has been expanded.
He said, "In addition to people who returned from abroad and those who came in touch with them, pneumonia patients are also being tested. And if one has pneumonia, one has to be tested. There is no other way than staying at home instead of coming to hospital."
Bangladesh confirms 3 new corona cases
Bangladesh confirmed three more cases of novel coronavirus in the country on Sunday.
"Three new patients were diagnosed with the virus in the last 24 hours, increasing the total number to 27," said IEDCR Director Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora in a briefing.
Among them, two returned from abroad and another one is connected with a Bangladeshi expat, she added.
"Among the 27 infected people in the country, two died and five got cured from the virus. 40 patients have been put in isolation at different hospitals, and the IEDCR has collected 65 samples in the last 24 hours," she added.
Dr Flora also said, "Sample of the UK-returnee patient, who died in Sylhet today, has been collected."
She also said, "It is too early to say the virus has reached the community transmission level as we need more information regarding it."
"As I do every day, I'm discouraging all kinds of public gatherings, meetings and rallies. People also should avoid public transport and try to keep a meter of distance from each other," Dr Flora said.