New wave of Covid-19: Younger patients, different symptoms at hospitals in Delhi

Doctors in government hospitals in Delhi said that they are seeing younger patients – some even as young as 10 months – and several of them are being brought in varying stages of consciousness
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In the current Covid-19 surge, diarrhoea, vomiting, high grade fever and rapid deterioration of Oxygen level are some of the symptoms being observed in patients diagnosed with the disease in the national capital as compared to the previous wave.

On Tuesday, Delhi recorded 13,468 new cases, the highest single day spike until now taking the total number of cases to 7,36,788, and 81 deaths. At the peak of the third Covid wave in November, Delhi had seen the biggest single-day surge of 8,500 cases.

India recorded 1.61 lakh cases in the last 24 hours, taking the tally to 1.36 crore cases. On Monday, the country recorded 1.68 lakh Covid-19 cases, which was the biggest spike in a single day.

Doctors in government hospitals in Delhi said that they are seeing younger patients – some even as young as 10 months – and several of them are being brought in varying stages of consciousness. Several of the government doctors acknowledged that this is a more infectious strain, but added that it could a lifestyle factor.

“The current strain in Corona Virus is affecting young adults and children. Children as young as eight months and less than 10 years are being brought to the hospital. Several of them are brought in an altered sensorium state (varying levels of consciousness). Youngsters have more than 104° F and severe body ache. This is most likely the new strain. The patients who are coming in now have restlessness, breathlessness, diarrhoea, vomiting, dehydration, high grade fever and rapid deterioration of Oxygen level. By morning if the Oxygen levels were fine, by evening they reach danger levels. Earlier, it was not so,” said Dr Suresh Kumar, Medical Superintendent of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in central Delhi.

Till early this year LNJP Hospital was a dedicated Covid-19 Hospital and on Tuesday, orders were passed to convert it back to a predominantly Covid-19 Hospital.

He added that last year, diarrhoea was recorded only in a few cases, probably 1 in 100, but now it was more frequent. “Last year, not many patients complained of severe body ache, but now it has become common. Earlier, loss of taste and smell was common, but now they are not so common,” he said.

Dr Abhishek Bhadani, Assistant Professor working in Covid-19 ward of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Medical College in West Delhi, had a similar opinion. “The patients are complaining of diarrhoea, persistent fever has become a common complaint this time, in addition to the regular loss of taste and smell. In fact, fever runs longer this time around. Last year, we saw the fever disappearing in days, now it runs for six to eight days,” said Dr Bhadani.

He added that the only other thing he could say conclusively is that several younger patients were testing positive.

The head of Pulmonology department, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr Anant Mohan, however, said nothing drastic has changed in the symptoms. “There are some symptoms which were not seen earlier, but most of the symptoms are similar – high fever, body ache, cough and sore throat. A few patients have reported abdominal symptoms such as diarrhoea and cramps. Patients have reported dizziness-like symptoms, and severe headache. There have been instances of loss of hearing, but that got resolved in a day or two.”

Dr Mohan pointed out that these were the symptoms that his team had recorded at AIIMS in the last one month. “These are not the patients who are severe and critical. Amongst critical patients, there are casesof severe breathing difficulty and severe pneumonia. Initially, we thought fewer patients were coming with severe symptoms, but as the absolute number of patients increase, the severity of the patients will also increase. The proportion of patients who are becoming serious is still not very high. It was not high last year too. Even this year it is around 5-7% of those reaching hospitals and 10-15% of those who are coming in are facing poor lung function,” he said.

He underscored that they have not directly compared the data, but highlighted that the patients were younger. “Persisting high fever was seen last year too, but we are seeing a few patients where initially the patient recovers from the fever in a day, and after a couple of days, there will again be a spike in temperature,” he said.

Dr Mohan said this strain probably has higher infection rate with the way the case numbers are increasing, but could not say conclusively unless data is pooled from across the country. One person is likely to infect more persons than what was said last year, he added.

A slightly higher percentage of younger people are getting infected, said Dr Mohan, and it is most often because younger people are meeting each other. “The older people are staying in, are more cautious and several of them have been vaccinated. It is probably the lifestyle factor which has changed which is why more young people are getting infected.”

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