Rahul Pandit, Director of critical care, Fortis Hospitals Mumbai, and a member of the National Covid-19 Taskforce and Maharashtra’s Covid-19 Taskforce, speaks to Rupsa Chakraborty about the reasons behind the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, the reason for reduced testing and why the uptake of booster doses is so low. Excerpts:
Recently, a lot of previously infected patients are again contracting Covid-19. There are claims that the protection acquired against other variants is ineffective against the new ones. Is there any initial evidence that antibodies from previous infections are waving off?
It is well-known that the viruses always try to mutate and produce new lineages or sublineages to avoid the previously acquired immunity. There is no precise data available about the sub-lineages of Omicron, but the immunity conferred by Omicron is lower than what it was as compared to the other variants, like Delta. Therefore, reinfection has become common, which is why people who got infected earlier are getting infected again. It is a well-established fact that antibodies do not mean that a person will not get infected, but they will experience mild symptoms. So, it is quite evident that having a high number of antibodies does not necessarily mean one can quickly overcome any new infection.
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People with two doses of vaccines are also contracting Covid-19. Is it because the efficiency of the vaccines is reducing with the passing time?
Vaccines will confer sterilising immunity to everyone. They provide us immunity against severe diseases and mortality. These are generation one vaccines made from the ancestral strain. It has never been claimed that vaccinated people will never get infected. Also, if one gets infected, the chances are that they will be asymptomatic or have minor symptoms.
Some doctors have observed that the patients are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms post-recovery. So, what are the post-recovery symptoms patients are experiencing?
Most patients in their post-recovery phase are experiencing significant symptoms like fatigue, disturbance in sleep, and inability to concentrate. They also have specific body aches and pain, especially joint pains. Some of them even have Resting Tachycardia which is called ‘Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia’ (IST). While gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are not a part of the post-viral disease itself, they could be part of viral illness.
Over the last 15 days, the number of Covid-19 cases has surged drastically in Maharashtra, especially in cities like Mumbai, Thane, and Pune. What are the main reasons behind the surge?
The main reason behind the surge is that the virus follows a pattern where it comes and goes back. Also, for the last several months, people are not following the necessary precautions to avoid spreading or transmitting Covid-19 infection. Due to this behaviour, the virus is still in circulation. Hence, we are seeing a rise in the number of cases in a few districts and cities across Maharashtra.
Are we heading towards a fourth wave? If yes, will this wave be more infectious than the previous ones?
The fact is that the cases are rising rapidly and there is no evidence to suggest that the situation is different in terms of infectivity and severity as compared to the third wave. However, there is a similar pattern that has been observed currently.