Confusion as flu cases rise amid Covid concerns

PARAG BISWAS, SNS, SILIGURI, 24JULY: It is again that time of the year when fever is associated with monsoon related illnesses are common. It is also that time of the year when the number of Covid-19 cases in India, and in Bengal especially, is gradually increasing.
Along with a rising trajectory of Covid-19 cases, north Bengal is now also under the grip of fever, upper respiratory tract infections and seasonal influenza. The doctors in the region, who are attributing this to fluctuations in weather and intermittent rains, said that they are examining at least 10 to 15 patients. With upper and upper respiratory tract infections, viral fever, and other related infections every day. Most of these patients, they said, we re seeing them with complaints of sore throat, fever, runny nose, cough and allergic infections. 
Since the symptoms of common cold are very similar to those of Covid- 19, people in the region are becoming increasing confused. With a low platelet count a number of symptoms being common signs both in Covid and dengue, some doctors are advising patients to get tested for both. 
A renowned physician of Siliguri, Dr Sankha Sen told this correspondent today that though some people would view it as paranoia, it would be prudent for people to isolate themselves if they began to show symptoms associated with common flu, including fever. 
"While fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, every onset of fever should be suspected and investigated for the virus, without panicking. Fevers commonly associated with monsoon related ill flosses include viral infections and dengue. As such, it is important to seek timely medical treatment and to go for a RTPCR, or at least a Rapid Antigen test, to ascertain if the fever is due to a coronavirus infection," he said.
Dr Sen emphasized the need to differentiate between Covid-related fever and common flu in order to control the pandemic effectively. 
"The contagious illnesses of the respiratory tract, influenza, common cold and seasonal allergies cause many similar symptoms. Covid-19 is caused by the infection of a novel coronavirus, that is, the SARS CoV-2, whereas flu is caused by the influenza viruses. As many of the symptoms are similar, it could be hard to tell the difference between them based on their symptoms alone. Hence, testing is required to confirm the diagnosis. It will also help in isolating the Covid positive patients and prevent the spread of the disease in the community" he said.
Dr Sen said Covid-19 was no more as lethal as it used to be at the start of the first wave or during the second wave of the pandemic. "The virus is now remaining confined mostly to the upper respiratory tract and is not trickling down to the lower areas of the tract.
Many who are now getting the disease are recovering in a few days. Covid specific antiviral drugs are also available now and a five-day course can cure patients completely. The disease is now causing severe illness and complications only in people with multiple comorbidities. There's therefore not much cause for worry anymore. There's no point in shying away from tests and we should all complete the entire course of vaccination as soon as possible," he suggested.
The Head of the Department of Community Medicine at the North Bengal Medical College and hospital, Dr Sarmistha Bhattacharjee, who agreed with Dr Sen, stressed concerns on the need for completing the entire course of vaccination immediately, but cautioned that people with viral infections, who did not or couldnot confirm their Covid- 19 status during their illness, should wait for at least four weeks, before taking any of the doses of Covid-19 vaccines. "Many are now getting flu and common cold and are recovering in a few days. They are thereto not going for a Covid- 19 tests. If some of them have been actually infected by the coronavirus, they will definite develop acquired immunities against the disease and they should take any of the anti Covid jabs only after two weeks of the onset of the infection. We are very happy to see the number of daily vaccinations at the NBMC increase from around 100 to over 400 every day since the government's decision to provide free anti-Covid jabs to all adult citizens. But at the same time we would like to remind people of all the vaccine protocols, which were in place since the start of the antiCovid inoculation drive in India," she said.

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