CHENNAI: Is the second wave turning out to be far more disastrous in the State than the first? Doctors and experts have been observing that a lot more youngsters are showing severe Covid symptoms compared to last. The second wave has claimed the lives of 10 youngsters who had no co-morbid conditions. For instance, on April 14, a 27-year-old passed away at the RGGGH in Chennai, just three hours after being admitted. Only the next day did his test results come, showing him Covid positive.
Similarly, a 23-year-old from Tiruvallur passed away at the Stanley GH within a day of admission. He had no co-morbid conditions. These aren’t isolated incidents. “Many youngsters have respiratory symptoms and pneumonia. Early admission may save lives of patients,” says says Dr E Theranirajan, dean of RGGGH, a hospital that has treated close to 50,000 Covid patients.
That apart, the daily case average has significantly increased compared to what it was in 2020. The State recorded a total of 64,251 cases between July 21 to 30, when Covid hit the peak in 2020, with an average of 6,425 cases a day; 6,993 was the highest the State recorded in that year, on July 27. Between March 1 to 10 in 2021, the State had recorded 5,365 cases totally as the curve had come down, with an average of 536 cases a day during the period.
However, now in the second wave, between April 11 and April 20, TN has recorded 86,562 and still has not hit the peak. The single-day highest was 10,986 cases, recorded on April 20, while the case average is 8,656, which is about 2,500 cases higher than the daily case average of last year’s peak. As many as 4,212 children between the age of 0 and 12 have been infected in April alone, while till April, 32,523 people in the same age group were infected, showing a clear rise in even young people getting infected.
Virologist Dr Jacob John says that the virus is now better adapted to conditions and is reaching more people, compared to last year. “People also did not follow appropriate Covid behavior. Large crowds were permitted. So, the characterizes of the virus have perhaps changed and we have also allowed it to spread rapidly,” he said. While last year, a new UK variant was a concern among experts, this year, in India, experts have raised fear of a ‘double mutation’, which is understood to spread faster.
Dr John pointed out that there are not many scientific studies that are currently happening in India to understand this unique pattern of spread. Dr Subramanian Swaminathan, an Infectious Diseases Specialist at Gleneagles Global Health City, says that the rapid spread this time may be due to a lack of lockdown, unlike last year. “Last time, the lockdown strongly prevented a physical connection between people and hence the spread was lesser. Secondly, newer variants also show a 60 to 70 percent increased transmission,” he said.
Dr Swaminathan said that younger people being affected highly in this phase may be due to them being more exposed than the elderly, who may also be vaccinated by now. Dr John meanwhile said that the present strain seems to not just be virulent but more disease-producing. “This is why younger people are getting sick with severe symptoms,” he added. Dr John also said the country mismanaged the vaccine rollout and procurement, which may have been properly planned as per the requirement.
Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said that there was no point in the blame game and the people must follow stricter Covid protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing. “The spike seems to be a global phenomenon and it is not an isolated incident,” he said.
Now, more children below 14 years contracting Covid
A case in point is the numbers coming out from Coimbatore. As per it, many children under the age of 14 are contracting the virus. Data sourced from district health department showed as many as 2,775 children below 14 years got a Covid-19 infection since January. Meanwhile, only 2,318 children had infection between March to December 2020.
Just three and half months into this year, sources said several children who are asymptomatic are contracting the infection only through their family members. Since many parents had to work in offline mode, little do they know that there are being virus carriers, said a health department official. “When we look at the number of children who contracted the infection after March this year, it is 690. All of them were asymptomatic. They had undergone an RT-PCR test when their family members tested positive for the virus. It is highly inevitable for them to stay away from getting contracted,” the official explained.
Comparing to the adult Covid-19 patients, the children cannot be given the same amount of medication. Sources said the children are given multi-vitamin tablets, but not the full Remdesivir vial as administered to the adults. “Only a little amount of Remdesivir is being administered on infected children,” said sources. Speaking about the current trend, public health expert K Kolandaisamy said the virus could be undergoing a downward age shifting as it had already infected higher age and vulnerable people during the first wave. Stating that is not a big reason to worry, the former director of public health also advised parents to be aware of their children’s health. “Children with other diagnosed health conditions must be taken great care of,” he said.
Numbers from Kovai
- Number of children infected with Covid-19 from January 1 to April 19- 2,775
- Number of children infected with Covid-19 from March 1 to April 19- 690
- Number of children infected with Covid-19 between March 2020 and December 2020- 2,318
Common Covid-19 symptoms in children
- Breathing difficulties
- Looks unwell
(With inputs from Deepak Sathish in Coimbatore)