The current wave of Covid-19 has changed all the dynamics that were experienced last year. The number of patients is more, and people are getting infected rapidly.
Dr Dilip Singhvi, Specialist in Internal Medicine at Apollo Hospital Muscat, noted that the steep rise in numbers is accompanied by complications increasing in cases ending in mortality.
One of the reasons for this, according to Dr Singhvi, “is the virus’ spread, that is 30 per cent faster than last time, and it is 70 per cent deadlier, which explains the rise in death. The world has experienced double mutants, and now we have noticed triple mutants reported in India.
Have the symptoms changed?
The doctor explained that the main symptoms that were observed with the coronavirus at the beginning are still prevalent. “Fever, headache and body ache, muscle pain, cough, feeling of tiredness, fatigue, and the feeling of drained out, all continue to be present. The new symptoms we are noticing are the cases of loose motions, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and rash, and out-of-proportion muscle cramps. These are the new symptoms that have come with the new variant,” he explained.
Another important factor is the change in age group. “This variant is now involving more with the adolescent and younger age group than the older virus that was infecting the elderly population more.
And this is why there is a massive increase in infection because the younger population is more mobile. The working population is also younger who are on the move for work, entertainment, etc. Children are also being infected more now.
It is not just symptoms that have increased; the complications due to the Covid-19 infection are taking a new turn.
“As you know Covid-19 is a spectrum. It is a dynamic disease. We have a spectrum of asymptomatic to mild, mild to moderate, moderate to severe, and very severe diseases. So there are five categories of patients.
Usually asymptomatic patients do not need treatment, only isolation at home; even the mild symptoms can be treated at home or as an outpatient or through telemedicine.
They do not require hospital admissions at the most all they need is a visit to the clinic. With other categories such as mild to moderate and severe, these patients will require admission for hospital stay treatment,” he noted.
Covid-19 treatment can be expensive. The treatment cost can vary due to the complications which were not widely seen last year.
“There is an increase in patients in the category of severe cases. That is why hospital admissions have increased. In the last four to five weeks, the numbers have steeply gone up, and the number of hospital admissions has crossed last year’s high, as is the case with ICU occupation. Deaths are more. The end result is the cost of treatment going high,” he said.
This time doctors came across more cases of clot formations in the brain, heart, lungs, legs, lack of circulations, involvement of kidney, and liver as the urine output decreases.
The liver enzymes tend to go high, which are some of the reasons patients stay longer in hospitals.
The cost goes higher with the severity of the case, and the care one might need. A mild to moderate case might cost a few hundred Omani Rials, but once the patient becomes moderate to severe, the oxygen requirement might go up.
The major costs are oxygen, ventilator and the injections, and other required services the team that is assigned to the treatment.
“The patient would have to be investigated more extensively and would have to be repeated depending on the severity. If mild cases require two to six litres of oxygen in the second category patients might require 8 to 10 to 12 litres per minute. The severe cases would require the next stage, which is ventilation that could be invasive or noninvasive, this would also increase the ICU stay,” he pointed out.
The length of stay depends on the severity and how quickly the patient recovers.
“During this period, we have noticed that people come with severe situations that need a ventilator immediately or within 48 hours,” he added.
One crucial factor Dr Singhvi says everyone should be aware of is the current variant is that it brings out the same symptoms of seasonal flu.
What I would suggest is that if one develops any of the symptoms, fever, headache, body pain, weakness, tiredness etc please isolate yourself so that you do not pass it on to other family members and do not go to work so that you do not give it to your colleagues. Try to get to a medical facility and get yourself tested."
The test will give us either peace of mind if the test proves you are negative or give you the correct diagnosis for treatment.
This way, we can control the spread of the disease. Many patients are in the mode of denial and are not ready to do the test. This attitude needs to be changed because this would help control the spread of the disease, especially amongst the blue collared workers or employees who work in clusters. If the infected person does not get investigated on time he could give it to others in the camp same in an office environment,” said Dr Singhvi adding that it is important for people to know the symptoms because it is best to control it while it is still at a mild stage as it controls the spread of the disease as well as the spread of the infection.
Many patients are also undergoing post-Covid complications such as what medical practitioners call as long Covid syndrome. They continue to have shortness of breath, chest discomfort, body ache, and tiredness.
“Many people are going through prolonged weakness post isolation and post-Covid period with some carrying low-grade fever. All of this at times, continues for two to three months. So we counsel the patients. I would advise any patients going through post-Covid syndromes to seek advice from their doctor. People tend to have problems in concentration and remembering things correctly as part of the post-Covid syndrome. The best thing is to talk to your doctor, practice relaxation and meditation techniques to bring back the focus. Usually, the focus will come back, but it takes time, sometimes up to three months. So do not ignore these symptoms as many patients are also experiencing palpitations, anxiety, and disturbed sleep. All of these symptoms are mild and can be brought under control,” advised the doctor.