While this has not set off an alarm since a significant number of patients are fully vaccinated and do not experience the severity seen during the first and second wave, it has led to scores of Covid cases going unrecorded because most doctors are not even advising those with mild symptoms to undergo tests. Even those who are advising patients to get tested say there is very little compliance.
Neighbourhood general practitioners, who have proved invaluable in diagnosing Covid cases and providing treatment to patients with not-so-severe symptoms, realised sometime last month that the virus had altered symptoms when they found multiple members of the same family suffering from cough and cold.
“Since cough and cold are common during season change, initially we thought it was common flu. But when we found more family members developing similar symptoms, we began to suspect there could be more to it. Also, while a majority of the patients recovered following treatment, for some the symptoms lingered and they began experiencing loss of taste and smell. This typically happened around the eighth or ninth day since the onset of the flu,” said Sabyasachi Bardhan, who practices in the Ballygunge-Lansdowne belt.
His wife Shilpi Bardhan, who also practices in the area, said some of those who got an RT-PCR test done were found to be Covid-positive. A couple of such patients later required hospitalization but most recovered at home.
At the other end of the city, Debabrata Saha, who practices in the Kankurgachi-Shyambazar belt, has had 40 such cases in a week, of which only one required hospitalization. “We are noticing significant changes in symptoms. Unlike the first and the second wave when Covid patients experienced dry cough, it is now a wet cough or one that produces phlegm. Also, unlike the medium- and high-grade temperature earlier, patients are now suffering from low-grade temperature,” Saha said.
Ranjit Das, who sits in a chamber near Purna Cinema in Bhowanipore, says unlike the first and second wave when seven out of 10 patients with fever and other symptoms turned out to be Covid-positive, now three out of 10 fever patients have Covid.
While vaccination has done its bit, Das and several other GPs are advising senior citizens and those susceptible to chest infection to now take flu shots. “We don’t know when the booster dose will happen. Many have taken their second dose six months ago. They should be taking the flu vaccine now,” he said.
While the fear of Covid has abated, people aren’t taking fever lightly as they did in the past. Hence, GPs now have almost twice the number of patients lined up at their chamber, most of them with fever. A third of them test positive for Covid, another third have malaria and dengue and the rest have chest infection, the doctors say.
What many GPs are worried about though is that unlike the first and the second wave, when patients strictly adhered to Covid protocol like wearing masks and isolating family members who displayed Covid-like symptoms, there is total disregard for it now. Vaccination appears to have led to the mistaken belief that they are now protected against Covid.
“From being paranoid about Covid during the first wave to being absolutely careless, our attitude has shifted from one extreme to the other. Not only have fully vaccinated people tested Covid positive but also those who have had Covid before and are now fully vaccinated,” said Anindya Roy Chowdhury who practices in Salt Lake and is attached to multiple hospitals.
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