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COVID-19 complications: Silent hypoxia emerges as new killer in Kerala

 Silent hypoxia has emerged as the new villain as the Covid-19 pandemic enters a new phase in the state.

Published: 07th June 2020 06:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th June 2020 05:53 PM   |  A+A-

A condition in which a person’s oxygen level in blood cells and tissues drop without any warning signs, silent hypoxia has already claimed the lives of many Covid-19 patients in the country.

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Silent hypoxia has emerged as the new villain as the Covid-19 pandemic enters a new phase in the state. 

A condition in which a person’s oxygen level in blood cells and tissues drop without any warning signs, silent hypoxia has already claimed the lives of many Covid-19 patients in the country. 

Though the state Health Department says it is yet to come across any such cases,  taking a cue from Tamil Nadu where a couple of deaths have been reported due to silent hypoxia and an alert from the health ministry, 32 COVID hospitals across the state have been asked to monitor patients continuously.

“This is an emerging threat. The ministry in a letter on May 25 had stressed the need for early identification of Covid-19 patients who develop hypoxia even without symptoms. As they are also the patients who are expected to develop complications and ultimately succumb to the infection, continuous monitoring is needed,” said an officer of the Health Department. 

At the same time, an internal assessment by the department has found that pulse oximeter, a small device used to monitor the oxygen level in the blood, available to check COVID patients is inadequate.  

Considering the same, the government has given nod to procure 600 pulse oximetry devices through Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd. For the same Rs 2.04 crore has been sanctioned.

“A total of 1,112 beds have been dedicated to Covid-19 patients in 32 COVID hospitals. The total number of pulse oxymeters available at these hospitals is 595. With respect to beds allocated, there is a shortage of 517 pulse oximeters.  As the available oximeters are also used in the operation theatre, labour room and other areas which may not be available for COVID-19 patients, more such devices will have to be procured,” said Rajan Khobragade, principal secretary, health, in an order released for procurement.

‘Most alarming phenomenon’

Dr P S Shajahan of Academy of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine said: “In normal circumstances, a patient experiencing hypoxia shows symptoms like shortness of breath, fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating and others. But in silent hypoxia, there are no such outward symptoms. They appear to be breathing comfortably. This is highly dangerous. Without contact monitoring, it can’t be recognised.”

At the same time, medical practitioners at the global level say that it is a strange situation and is without any conclusive explanation. One of the probabilities is the subtle blood clots in their lungs soon after infection. These clots prevent blood from being properly oxygenated.

‘Need clear-cut plan’

A section of medical practitioners in the state shares the concern that if a person undergoing home/institution quarantine faces such a health emergency, it will be difficult to save his/her life as it will be only at the critical stage that they will show symptoms.

A clear-cut plan should be put in place to tackle this alarming phenomena, they said.

Hypoxia is characterised by low blood oxygen saturation level, and typically, a person with hypoxia can be seen gasping for air and in terrible pain. In silent hypoxia, there are no outward symptoms 



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  • SANKARANARAYANAN R

    The panic arising out of reading alarming news like Hypoxia itself is a big threat to our health after reading the news.
    1 year ago reply
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