Dr Asangba Tzudir
The COVID-19 situation in the country is worsening with the biggest single day spike of 1,68,912 cases and 904 deaths on April 12. India also took over Brazil in the second slot. The circulation of the highly infectious strains of SARS-CoV-2 coupled with the lack of adherence to safety protocols can be attributed for the recent surge in the cases. Even as the country struggles through the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have also warned of a strange symptom, called COVID Tongue where the body fails to produce saliva. People with these symptoms might find it difficult to chew their food or talk properly.
India's COVID-19 crisis is unfolding in primarily 10 states (Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan), which account for 83.02% of the cases reported recently. Though these states have imposed several curbs and restrictions to break the chain of transmission, in a populous country like India, with a population density of 464 per Sq.km it is difficult to control a population and the increase in COVID cases through the safety protocols. The current galloping situation is such that, if it is not reversed, it is eventually going to cause a huge strain on the healthcare system. It has come to a point where self help is the best help that too before it gets late.
While the most common symptoms remain dry cough, fever, loss of taste, and smell, there has been evidence of the mutated forms of the virus producing different symptoms and reportedly being more transmissible. Some studies have established that the virus can quickly escape immune defenses present along some vital organs, and unleash an attack in more impactful ways. For the new mutation, fever is considered to be a more severely seen symptom in cases tested positive. Reports have also stated that certain other symptoms such as hearing loss, muscle pain, skin infections, distorted vision, sore throat, rashes, headaches, stomach upset and conjunctivitis may be more common with the newer strains.
According to new studies, the UK variant or the Kent variant, B.1.1.7, spreads more easily and quickly than other variants. In an interview with Times of India, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria said, “We have observed that one primary patient (index case) is able to affect more people this time. During the earlier peak, one patient could spread the disease to 30-40% of his or her contacts. This time, it has been observed that 80-90% of people who come in contact with a patient turn positive.” The UK-based New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group has recently reported that the Kent variant may be up to 70 per cent more deadly than previous strains. A recent study has also revealed that the Kent strain has acquired a mutation making it more likely to resist vaccines. Vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have already announced that they are working to modify their vaccines, and possibly to create booster shots for better protection. This will require change in chemical composition, a task that sounds easy theoretically but not so practically and may take months.
Despite the intensity of the new strain, and as a means to curtail the second wave of the virus, people also need to exercise continued caution by following the protocols of hand sanitizing, wearing face masks, and maintaining social distancing. But most importantly, there’s more than these ‘normal’ safety precautions, that timely self help especially on the healthcare front may be the best help to save one and all.
(Dr Asangba Tzudir writes a weekly guest editorial for The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org