India's 2nd Covid wave more infectious, lower fatality

TNN Bureau. Updated: 4/18/2021 1:39:07 PM National

New Delhi: With a massive second wave of Covid-19 sweeping through India, one in five infections in the world is currently being reported from the country.

How is India’s second wave different from the first?

To start with, the second wave is spreading much, much faster than the first, as visible in this graphic.
Many experts believe the surge is partly fuelled by new strains of the coronavirus, including a more infectious homegrown variant found in 61% of samples genome sequenced in Maharashtra, the worst hit state. The laxity in preventive measures, coupled with the presence of new variants, has resulted in a nationwide crisis. Many states are reporting shortages of hospital beds, oxygen supply, medicines, even space in morgues and crematoriums.

What is still unclear is whether the second wave is manifesting in different demographic and clinical outcomes. Are more young people getting infected and hospitalised, as is currently the case in Brazil, also in the throes of an out-of-control pandemic? Are children more vulnerable this time? Is the virus more infectious and the disease more severe?

There is no clear data to answer some of these questions yet.

But here is what doctors and experts are saying.
Are more younger patients infected?
Since the start of the pandemic till December, those below the age of 45 accounted for 60% of the infections, according to a report on mortality data by the Union health ministry. But this age group was not the one to suffer the most deaths because of the virus. At least 55% of those who died of Covid-19 were aged above 60 years, the report said.

In the current wave, it is not clear whether the age composition of cases and deaths has changed since the central government has not released nationwide data. Data for states is also not publicly available. But a cursory glance at data reported by the media shows no major change in the demographic profile of coronavirus patients.

In Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, those below the age of 40 accounted for 48% of cases between January and March this year, more or less comparable to the age data reported till November 2020. In Karnataka, 47% of those who tested positive for the virus between March 5 to April 5 were between 15 to 45 years, which appears to be similar to last year.

On April 13, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said 65% of Covid-19 patients in the city-state are below the age of 45 years. He did not provide comparative data for last year.

Doctors in Delhi hospitals say they are seeing more younger patients compared to last year. “October and November had mostly elderly people, now it is mostly people in their 30s,” said Dr Sumit Ray, head of department for critical care medicine at Holy Family Hospital, a private facility in the capital which was declared a dedicated Covid hospital on April 12. Among these younger patients, he said the most common comorbidity is diabetes, obesity, and hypothyroid.

In other states as well, doctors expressed similar concerns. “It is possible that higher vaccination among the elderly is providing them some sort of protection,” Dr Maharishi Desai, an Ahmedabad-based doctor and member of the state’s task force was quoted as saying in The Times of India.

A government official in Chhattisgarh said not only were more younger patients infected, they were more severely infected than last year. “We are seeing more deaths among those who are above 30 years, more deaths of those without comorbidities,” he said, requesting anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the press.

But the higher number of younger patients reporting to hospitals could simply be a function of a higher number of overall cases this year. India was reporting 10 lakh active cases at the peak of the first wave in September, currently the country has nearly 14 lakh active cases.

Updated On 4/18/2021 1:43:41 PM

Comment on this Story