Covid looms over state preparedness

Treatment, availability of beds and oxygen support — the trifecta of pandemic protocol, which officials at health department claim are kept ready across Tamil Nadu in every government & government-aided hospital. Shweta Tripathi and Swedha Radhakrishnan report
Door-to-door testing is being done at several places in the city
Door-to-door testing is being done at several places in the city

CHENNAI: From change in symptoms to the pattern and severity of the illness, the overall management and treatment of COVID-19 cases at hospitals have changed.

Dr Subramanian Swaminathan, director, Infectious Diseases at Gleneagles Global Health City, says that COVID symptoms such as loss of taste and smell have become less common and other symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and backache are stronger among the recently-infected patients.

“There are more number of children presenting with symptoms like fever and respiratory issues, though it might not be severe. Respiratory illness in adults is not as common now as it was in the first or second wave. However, in such cases, domestic transmission is inevitable. Family members may not have symptoms, but they can be infected. The emphasis on adequate quarantine must be given, as it has reduced over the past few months,” explains Dr Subramanian.

Doctors are seeing a mixed range of symptoms in COVID-patients that can also be indicative of other illnesses and co-infections such as influenza, dengue or other forms of fever.

Talking about the treatment protocols, Dr Suresh Kumar, consultant-infectious diseases, Apollo Hospitals, says, “Patients with co-morbid conditions, elderly and the unvaccinated visiting hospital within 5-7 days of onset of symptoms are being treated with Remdesivir for COVID-19 for 3 days. Other medications depend on their individual health condition. Mild injectable medicines, supportive therapy, paracetamol, antibiotics and very rarely, antivirals, because the nature of the illness is not very severe.”

The co-infections are common and that is one more challenge in COVID-19 care, he points out and adds, “Which is why more people should get tested if they experience any symptoms.”

Doctors emphasise on increasing the testing across all age groups to identify cases at an earlier stage as delay in treatment, especially in high-risk category, can be challenging due to change in treatment patterns.

Dr Srinivas Rajagopalan, senior consultant, interventional pulmonology and sleep medicine, Kauvery Hospital, says that social gatherings and household clusters with children being the main carriers are some of the main reasons for the spike in COVID cases.

“This makes it important to increase testing in vulnerable settings and even children should be tested. Despite less cases of oxygen drop and low saturation levels, the symptoms cannot be downplayed,” he warns.

Some of the symptoms are persistent cough, inability to swallow, fever and body ache. Treatment depends on the condition of the patient. “Those in high-risk category are given steroids,” adds Dr Srinivas. “The antibody cocktail is not being used much as most patients are vaccinated. Besides, the immune response generated with the help of cocktail therapy is not very strong against variants of Omicron, which are currently prevalent in the State.”

Officials at the State Health Department say that there has been no specific change of protocols, treatment is being determined as per the severity, age and co-morbid conditions.

“We have all drugs including Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, Hydroxychloroquine, and others well in stock but not much of it is being required for the treatment in the current cases. No new drug for the treatment has been introduced and we’re continuing the protocol as earlier,” clarifies an official from the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

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