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Covid second wave: ‘Older people, not youth, still most vulnerable’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 19, 2021

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ICMR chief says the mean age during the first wave of the pandemic was 50.4 years; it is 48.9 during the second wave

Key functionaries of the National Task Force for Covid-19 (NTF) on Monday said that the second wave of Covid-19 is not affecting young people more as reported in a section of the media and that no significant difference in age profile and mortality of Covid-19 patients is seen during the latest surge.

Briefing the media, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava, co-chair of the NTF, said while the mean age of Covid-19 patients during the first wave of the pandemic was 50.4 years, it was 48.9 years during the second wave. Bhargava said, the data was collated from nearly 9,500 Covid-19 patients admitted for hospital care during both waves. Similarly, there is only a marginal increase in the mortality of the patients, as seen from these hospital admissions – 9.7 per cent in the second wave as compared to 9.6 per cent in the first, Bhargava said.

 

Explaining this further, Niti Aayog Member (Health), Vinod K Paul said while 31 per cent of Covid-19 patients were below 30 years of age, the percentage in the current wave is 32 per cent and in the age group between 30-40 remained the same – 21 per cent. “This clearly indicates that there is no higher proportion of young patients during the second wave of the pandemic,” Paul said.

Remdesivir - not a magic bullet

Randeep Guleria, Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and another key member of the NTF, said the learnings from the last year of the pandemic has clearly shown that drugs, as well as timings of drug administration, are both critical. “Studies during this period have shown that (antiviral drug) Remdesivir does not reduce the mortality but cuts only the hospital stay. So it is not a magic bullet,” Guleria said.

He, however, said Remdesivir does have a role, and if given to moderate to severe patients between five and seven days of infection, it can help reduce the viral load. It does not affect mild and asymptomatic people if given early, and similarly, when given late, there would be more cytokine storm rather than infection, Guleria explained.

Both Guleria and Paul explained that Remdesivir could be used only in hospital settings, and hence the rush for the drug should be stopped. They also assured the people that the country is producing enough Remdesivir and further increasing the production. “India has been exporting the drug to as many as 100 countries earlier. With the ban on exports, India has enough supply of Remdesivir,” Paul said.

According to Guleria, one drug that shown practical usefulness in Covid-19 management is steroids. “Even they too need to be administered during the later stages in moderately ill patients. If steroids are taken from day 1, it can actually increase the chances of mortality,” Guleria said.

Most common symptoms

One symptom that is seen in more number of patients during the second wave is shortness of breath. As against 41.7 per cent in the first wave, 47.5 per cent people experienced shortness of breath in the second, Bhargava said. All other Covid-19-associated symptoms include dry cough, fatigue, sore throat, muscle ache and loss of smell reported by fewer patients during the second wave.

Bhargava admitted there is a significant increase in demand for oxygen during the second wave – 54.5 per cent as compared to 41.1 per cent in the first. But there was a drastic reduction in the number of patients requiring mechanical ventilation. It came down to 27.8 per cent in the current wave compared to 37.3 per cent during the earlier wave, he explained.

Published on April 19, 2021

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