Ask The Expert:

With Covid-19 second wave gripping our country, it is time to practice more precautions, stay at home for combating the infection successfully. Doctors, paramedical staff and pharmacologists across the country are working round-the-clock in attending the patients, saving their life and aiding in their faster recovery.

Many of us have questions that would require expert answers on this pandemic. In this Ask The Expert column, we asked FAQs of these days to Dr J Prabhakaran, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine and Diabetology at Dr Rela Institute and Medical Centre, Chennai.

Here are the answers for dispelling the doubts related to Coronavirus.

What are the grave symptoms of COVID-19 wherein an individual needs to be hospitalized, possibly requiring emergency treatment?

Fever associated with cough, breathing difficulty.  Respiratory rate more than 24/ min and oxygen saturation (SaO2) less than 94%. If you are suffering from these problems, you would certainly need medical consultation, right away.

Many new mutant strains of coronavirus have emerged in the UK, Brazil, South Africa, India, there is an opinion that RT-PCR Test cannot detect them? How true is it?

False Negative PCR with persons typical of COVID infection can occur. But it may not be due to mutant strains alone and can be due to sampling error. When patients have typical symptoms of COVID, HRCT chest showing typical ground glass opacities, it is always better to repeat the test RTPCR, CBNAAT etc to get the accurate result.

Why are children and young adults facing a high risk of infection from these new mutant strains amidst the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 in India?

Since vaccination above the age of 60 and 45 and those individuals with comorbidities has been almost done, it’s protecting them. For those between 18 to 45 years of age, vaccination drive will commence from May 1. Since they are not protected, COVID affects them more during this second wave. If we successfully vaccinate everyone, I’m sure, we can flatten the curve from July onwards. We need 75% to 80 % of the population to get either vaccinated or infected to control the spread of the virus, like herd immunity.

Are all three vaccines approved in India – Covaxin, Covishield, Sputnik V effective in combating COVID-19 arising from new mutated coronavirus strains as well? Should people continue taking precautions even after two doses? Can they get reinfected?

All COVID vaccines approved for usage will be effective even for mutant strains as well. It takes 2 weeks after the second dose of vaccination for the body to complete antibody production and to confer immunity against COVID.  Re infection can occur, but it would just pass off as a mild viral infection without any complications. It would be mandatory to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and frequent hand washing as a tool for preventing infection.

Is the Covid-19 test compulsory to check if the individual has turned negative to the infection, after 14 days of quarantine?

The COVID virus once enters the body replicates inside for a period of 14 days, after that period it becomes a dead virus. A dead virus is not contagious. RTPCR test will detect the viral antigen irrespective of active virus or dead virus. If a dead virus is inside the body, RTPCR can be positive. That doesn’t mean the patient is having an active disease. Hence it is not mandatory to repeat the test. After 14 days, patients are advised home isolation for a further period of 1 week. So when a COVID patient completes 14 days plus a week, i.e., 21 days from the date of onset of symptoms, he is said to be clinically recovered.
Dr Prabhakaran 
 Dr. J Prabhakaran, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine and Diabetology at Dr Rela Institute and Medical Centre, Chennai.