COVID-19 in its second wave show different, severe symptoms

Isolation centre
A COVID-19 patient arrives for treatment inside a banquet hall, converted into a COVID-19 isolation centre, in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

Most people are aware that the common symptoms of COVID-19 are cough, fever, sore throat and loss of smell and taste. However, many have been complaining of different and more severe symptoms in the second wave of the pandemic.

These are some of the symptoms in the second wave:

» Loss of appetite. Around 53% of patients complained that they had vomiting, stomach ache and bouts of diarrhea.

» Severe exhaustion and tiredness.

» Dry mouth or lack of saliva in the mouth.

» Sudden headache.

» Rashes on hands and legs.

» Loss of hearing.

» Reddened eyes.

Healthy people between 25 – 50 years of age have mostly been infected during the second wave.

Happy hypoxia, the phenomenon of low blood oxygen levels without showing any obvious symptoms, has been taking a toll on youngsters. Usually, the normal blood oxygen level is 97 – 100. Most people would complain of shortness of breath when it drops to 91. However, in the second wave, there have been cases where the patient didn’t show any obvious symptoms or any other difficulties despite the oxygen level falling to 60 or 50. This delays the chance for availing proper medical care for the patient.

When the oxygen level further drops, the patient would suddenly gasp for breath. However, their condition may soon deteriorate and even die, by the time they are taken to the hospital and given medical care.

Medical attention is required when the oxygen level drops to 91. The patient has to be administered with Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV). However, those who have lower blood oxygen levels than that should be shifted to a ventilator ICU. It is assumed that this condition happens due to the blood clots in the small blood vessels in lungs.

If a patient experiences shortness of breath, their blood oxygen level must be below 90. Then they could be given oxygen using a mask. Most people would get better when oxygen is given like this. In case, the condition of the patient worsens, they will have to be given oxygen through NIV. An ICU ventilator could be relied on as the last step, if the patient is showing no sign of improvement. These steps in treatment ensure that the doctors and other medical staff get enough time to stabilize the patient.

However, the condition of those who have happy hypoxia would be worse even as they are brought to the hospital. They might require emergency ventilator care. Their condition might further deteriorate and even die by the time the ventilator ICU bed gets ready.

So, COVID-19 patients who are quarantining at their homes or at any domiciliary care centers should regularly check their blood oxygen levels using an oximeter. A standard oximeter would cost up to Rs 800 – 1500.

The double mutant variant of the COVID-19 virus, in the second wave, is more infectious and deadlier than the variant during the first wave. So, if one family member gets infected, it is likely that others too may be infected. This, in turn, increases the caseload.

Here are some of the disadvantages of rising caseloads

There is an average of 300 hospital beds for around 1 lakh people in the world. However, in India, it is 50 beds for 1 lakh patients. Meanwhile, it is 80 beds for a lakh of people in Bangladesh. As per the availability of hospital beds, India ranks 155 among 167 countries. This indeed is a pathetic situation.

The number of ICU or ventilator beds is lower than this.

Let’s do a simple calculation to understand the severity of the situation. The general positivity rate is 20%. Even if we take half of it, that is 10%, the data would be like this:

Kerala reports an average of around 40,000 daily cases. Around 10% of this, that is 4000 patients require oxygen or need to be admitted in hospitals. About 10% of that 4000, that is 400 patients might need ICU care; and the 10% of it or 40 people may require a ventilator.

The problem is that those who are admitted to the hospitals do not get discharged in a day. These many numbers of patients seek hospital care the next day too. This would surely exhaust the hospital facilities, further worsening the situation.

Usually, whenever a disease is detected, the prognosis factor or the variable that can be used to estimate the chance of recovery or disease relapse too is determined. It refers to the possible outcomes of the disease like the chance of recovery, recurrence or death.

Unfortunately, the scientific world hasn’t been able to determine the prognosis factor in the case of COVID-19. So, it is possible that a healthy 28-year person could succumb to COVID-19 while a septuagenarian who has diabetes or heart ailments may recover. Dismissing COVID-19 as a regular fever wouldn’t be the wisest approach to this disease.

The death rate increases proportionately to the increasing number of caseloads. Besides, patients who require urgent medical care for other illnesses are denied timely treatment or medical attention due to the surging COVID-19 cases. So, there is no doubt that the number of people who are dying of other diseases too has gone up.

As responsible citizens, everyone should cooperate with the government and obey the directives. There is no point in blaming each other saying that the cases surged due to mass election rallies or religious gatherings. The current phase of lockdown is intended to save our lives and the lives of our family members too.

You could save yourself from the deadly tentacles of COVID-19 if you stay home during the lockdown period. This could significantly reduce the caseloads in the hospitals and would ensure an uninterrupted supply of oxygen. It is true that some of us would lose our income due to the lockdown and have to say ‘no’ to grand celebrations of religious festivals. You would even miss dining out or your close relative’s wedding, engagement or any other function.

But, only if we are alive could we enjoy these happy moments in the coming years too. So, for now, staying safe and saving your life should be the primary aim. 

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