Srinagar: Thirty-five-year-old Mohammad Khalid (name changed) from Baramulla was down with fever, body ache, and chills.
Suspecting it could be a case of common cold, he popped up some over-the-counter antibiotics and paracetamol for quick relief.
After slight improvement, he resumed his routine without getting tested or isolating himself.
Just two days later, all his family members developed similar symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19. Doctors, who treated the family, said it was Khalid who was the supespreader.
“The family has recovered now. It is, however, yet to be seen how many people Khalid infected since he didn’t isolate himself,” said the doctor.
In Kashmir, the majority of people are suffering from cold, cough, and fever. Most people avoid testing and brush it as simple “woad”, a Kashmiri term for seasonal flu.
A doctor pleading anonymity told The Kashmir Monitor that most people resort to self-medication which fuels the infection.
“People take COVID-19 lightly and treat it as flu. Many patients I have examined came with complaints of flu but later they tested positive for COVID-19. This could be one of the reasons that our COVID-19 cases are witnessing a spike,” he said.
The Kashmir Monitor visited many chemists and found out that the sale of antibiotics, paracetamol, and cough syrups has spiked in the last one month.
Though none of them could give actual data, they said that people mostly buy Azithromycin, Amoxicillin Potassium Clavulanate, Paracetamol, Cefpodoxime, and some dry cough syrups.
Dr. Mir Mushtaq, the spokesperson at Directorate and Health Services Kashmir, said the reluctance to get tested for COVID-19 could lead to a health disaster.
“It is true that people don’t come forward to get tested and presume COVID-19 as a simple cold and flu. People who are infected with mild or no symptoms continue their routine work and infect many others. Omicron has a high transmission rate and can infect a large population if not tested on time,” he said.
Dr. Mushtaq said people have to come forward voluntarily for testing, besides following COVID-19 SOPs with or without developing symptoms.
“We have a limit on RTPCR tests, but at least 40,000 Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) are done daily in Kashmir. The onus lies on people. They have to get tested,” he said.
Contrary to popular belief that omicron is very mild in nature, 105 people have died in the last one month.
Experts are predicting a peak wave in February. To contain the COVID-19 spread, the administration has already imposed a weekend lockdown in Kashmir.