By now we are all aware that the 2nd wave of COVID-19 has arrived. According to the latest coronavirus news, several states have imposed renewed COVID restrictions and vaccination has been liberalized and accelerated so that more people can get the COVID vaccine as soon as possible.
The surge in COVID-19 cases in India has happened quite suddenly and has taken a lot of people by surprise.
It’s no wonder that people are asking what the second wave is, what triggered it, and will the same COVID precautionary measures we adopted throughout last year suffice? Read on for all the answers.
What is the second wave and what caused it?
India recorded the first cases of COVID-19 in March 2020 and then on until September of 2020, COVID cases continued increasing. After September, fewer cases began to be reported and the first wave of COVID officially began to decline. By the beginning of 2021, only a handful of cases were reported pan India, and normalcy was almost restored.
However, from February onwards, cases began to rise exponentially, and in 1 month (February to March) we recorded as many cases as in 6 months of 2020. This is the second wave because it is the second time that COVID cases are on the rise.
What exactly caused the second wave is unknown however, this second wave could have been triggered by a few new strains of the coronavirus including the UK virus, South Africa virus, and the double mutant. These mutants of coronavirus are very infectious and have a high R-value (the number of people who can be infected from one person).
Two other reasons why the second wave has spread like wildfire are –
- People’s apathy towards COVID-19 precautions like not wearing masks, not washing hands, not using sanitisers. (pandemic fatigue)
- Large-scale congregations especially during the election season and for certain ceremonies.
Why is the second wave so concerning?
The second coronavirus wave is of concern because this new mutant SARS-COV is very contagious and has learned to dodge our antibodies. Even the 18-45 age group, who supposedly has strong immunity, is susceptible. This group has been classified as the COVID-19 super-spreader.
They are the ones who have to be out in public the most. And once they come home with the infection, they rapidly spread it to others in the house/apartment building/housing society. This new COVID-19 strain is also infecting children.
New symptoms of the Covid-19 second wave infection
Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing (dyspnea), is one of the early symptoms of coronavirus, predominantly seen in infected patients during the second wave of COVID-19.
Although the intensity of breathlessness can vary among individuals, this symptom leaves most patients with a feeling of tightness of the chest, resulting in the constant gasping of air, every few seconds.
Studies suggest that breathing difficulties are commonly seen in the second wave of COVID-19 patients, right at the onset of the infection. The infection causes a decrease in oxygen saturation (SpO2 levels) which may result in lung damage and in some cases, even multiple organ failure.
Besides this, other newer symptoms of the second wave of COVID-19 infection, that you must be aware of include:
- Gastrointestinal tract infections: Your GI tract comprises the main organs of digestion, including the mouth, food pipe, stomach/gut, small and large intestine. Any disturbances in your GI system can wear down your immunity and hamper overall health. Symptoms of GI tract infections associated with COVID-19 include loss of hunger, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loose stools.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss is one of the symptoms in the second wave of COVID-19 infection. It may range from mild, moderate to severe which results in a sudden hearing loss, impaired hearing, or ringing sound in your
ears (tinnitus). This starts early in the first week of infection and resolves over a period of time.
- Extreme lethargy and weakness: Extreme weakness and lethargy have been reported as one of the early symptoms of the COVID-19 infection, more so during the second wave.
Once your body identifies the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) as an invader, it initiates the immune response to fight the virus, and this can result in the infected person feeling tired and weak.
- Pink eye or conjunctivitis: Pink eye is an infection of the eye which results in the swelling of the outer transparent membrane (called the conjunctiva) of your eyelid and eyeball.
Common symptoms include itching, redness, and tearing of the eyes, which results in puffy or watery eyes.
Certain studies have explored the link between COVID-19 and ophthalmological (relating to the eye) symptoms. The COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted through infected droplets in the air when someone sneezes, speaks or coughs. You can also pick the virus from infected surfaces and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, increasing the probability of infections of the eye, along with the nose and mouth.
The new strains of the novel coronavirus in India are known to infect the conjunctiva. Unlike normal conjunctivitis, which usually affects both your eyes, conjunctivitis with COVID-19 is seen predominantly in one eye. It may be accompanied by constant eye irritation and sensitivity to light.
- Dry mouth or not enough saliva: Saliva is the watery, frothy substance produced in your mouth that helps in digestion and keeps your teeth and mouth moist and healthy. When sufficient saliva is not produced by the concerned glands (salivary glands), it leads to a condition called dry mouth, which can lead to tooth and gum diseases and make you susceptible to infections. Dry mouth is now a common and initial symptom of COVID-19. Since the oral cavity (mouth) is a potential entry point for the novel coronavirus, it can attack the tissues and mucus lining your oral cavity, resulting in decreased saliva production and thus, dry mouth. Like the dry mouth, other oral manifestations of the coronavirus infection could be a dry tongue, changes in the colour and texture of your tongue, sores or blisters, and difficulty in eating.
- Diarrhoea: Diarrhoea or loose watery stools is one of the widespread
symptoms seen in COVID-19 patients during the second wave. Reports suggest most individuals affected with COVID-19 complained of persistent diarrhoea for 1 to 14 days, with an average duration of 5 days. Since diarrhoea is not usually thought to be a symptom of COVID-19 and can be a result of other digestive issues, there is a delay in getting tested for COVID- 19 and hence, a delay in the identification of potential COVID-19 positive patients.
- Headache: Sudden headaches can be a symptom of COVID-19. A normal headache that continues for a long time and does not subside with painkillers, is being reported as one of the newer symptoms seen during the second COVID-19 wave.
- Skin rashes: Recent studies have highlighted skin rashes as a new symptom of COVID-19. Patients have reported rashes on their hands and feet, which are usually called acral rashes. Studies suggest that these rashes can develop as a result of the immunological response to the virus.
If you develop any of the above symptoms, do not panic. It is advisable to isolate yourself from other family members and get yourself checked for COVID-19, after consulting your doctor.
Additionally, if you have difficulty in breathing, tightness in the chest or chest pain, pale or blue-coloured skin, a sudden loss of speech or movement, or new confusion, seek medical care immediately.
9. Unexplained fatigue
Many people who tested positive for COVID-19 have reported feeling tired and fatigued prior to developing any other symptoms. In fact, in some cases, people don’t have any other symptoms other than feeling fatigue and tired.
How to keep ourselves safe from the new COVID-19 wave
The new double-mutated coronavirus too spreads through droplets from infected persons or through contact with contaminated surfaces. That is why the same precautions as before will help you now –
- Since this virus spreads through contact and is very contagious, you should only go out when necessary. Stay home at least for the next four weeks which are very critical.
- People who have to go out for work need to wear an N95 Mask and a Surgical Mask over it. Stay masked the whole time you are outside. If the double mask seems too suffocating, wear the N95 masks and a face shield.
- If you are travelling by cab, turn the AC off and wind the windows down to allow air circulation. The driver must wear a mask.
- Use the lift only when you have to, like when you have to reach the top floor of a multi-rise or you are physically not in a state to take the stairs. Lifts can easily spread COVID if an infected person uses them. So, wear a mask inside the lift and do not talk to anyone else sharing the loft with you.
- Wear a double mask even if you are going out to your neighbourhood grocery store.
- Sanitize your hands when you touch a high-contact surface or any object outside your home.
- Wash your clothes and disinfect anything you were wearing/carrying when you went out.
- Go out only when absolutely necessary.
- Educate children because the new COVID-19 infects children.
- Get vaccinated as soon as you can. The COVID vaccine reduces the chances of getting infected and even if you do, the infection will not be serious.
Author: Aniket Kumar Roy