With the health department starting to screen people entering India at all major entry and exit points along the Indo-Nepal border in Darjeeling district, experts have said that the deadly coronavirus (nCoV), is of a more powerful strain than the one that was seen in the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). However, they have advised people to not worry about the situation, but remain alert.

“Corona has been a common virus. It was found in 2003, and resurfaced in 2012- 2013. It has now revived again. It infects the respiratory system and directly attacks the lungs. There are talks about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). It is a more powerful strain that infects the lungs. The mortality rate increases in the case of elderly persons, children having preexisting diseases like diabetes and lung disease,” said Prof Sanjay Mallik of the department of microbiology, North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) in Siliguri.

Prof Mallik, however, advised people not to panic over the same, but stressed on alertness.

“There are many news items over the corona virus. If people face severe respiratory infection, unlike normal respiratory illness, they should contact doctors. People should maintain proper hygiene,” he added. “If such patients are found, a health examination should be done to check whether they are suffering from fever, respiratory infection, and have other symptoms. There is an isolation ward at the NBMCH. If the symptoms match, they will be quarantined for 14 days at the ward,” Prof Mallik said.

Darjeeling district chief medical officer of health, Dr Pralay Acharya, said medical teams at three points at Kharabari (Panitanki), Mirik (Pashupati Fatak) and Sukhia Pokhari were screening patients. Health officers said a public expert of the department, Dr Bikas Mondal, visited those areas to take stock of the situation. According to the NBMCH superintendent, Dr Kausik Samajdar, the infrastructure of the six-bed isolation ward had been readied. The ward has ventilators for treatment. The doctors will treat the patients there wearing N95 masks and other protective gear.