Although COVID-19 cases are on the decline, the city is now under the grip of fever, upper respiratory tract infections, and seasonal influenza. Doctors attribute this to fluctuations in weather and intermittent rains.
Hospitals and telemedicine specialists are seeing a number of patients with lower and upper respiratory tract infections, viral fever, and other related infections. At least six out of every 10 patients are reporting with complaints of sore throat, fever, runny nose, cough, allergic bronchitis, asthma, and middle ear infection.
While a spurt in viral illnesses is common during monsoon, doctors said because the symptoms of these ailments are similar to COVID-19, people are becoming increasingly confused. With a low platelet count and a number of symptoms being common signs both in COVID-19 and dengue, some doctors are advising patients to get tested for both.
Sudarshan Ballal, chairman of Manipal Hospitals, who is also part of the State’s COVID-19 expert committee, said it is difficult to distinguish whether it is a common cold, flu, Influenza ‘A’ H1N1, or COVID-19 based on the symptoms alone.
“During the pandemic last year, the usual seasonal influenza activity was curtailed for some time thanks to COVID-19 precautions such as hand hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing, and practising cough etiquette. However, now we are seeing a spurt in the number of respiratory illnesses and many of these patients have tested negative for COVID-19,” Dr. Ballal said.
He said this could be due to a spike in the common flu and cold viruses and people becoming complacent with the reduction in COVID-19 cases. “So the take-home message is that we should not forget that in addition to COVID-19, other respiratory illnesses do exist and could come back when the conditions are conducive,” the doctor said.
Sunil Kumar K., Lead and Sr. Consultant - Interventional Pulmonology at Aster CMI Hospital, said many respiratory infections, including influenza, seasonal respiratory viruses, and tuberculosis, share commonality in transmission with SARS-CoV-2.
“Laboratory tests such as chest x-ray, RT-PCR, complete blood counts come up as handy options to differentiate between COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases,” he said.
Haleema Yezdani, general physician who has been regularly tele-triaging and tele-treating COVID-19 patients through the Emergency Response Team and Project StepOne groups NGOs, said although symptoms are similar, there are certain subtle differences. “People should not panic with every symptom of respiratory illness that mimics COVID-19. If symptoms persist for more than four days with abdominal cramps and diarrhoea or any nausea and severe body pain, people should seek medical advice,” she said.
Pointing out that there is a rise in the number of telemedicine consultations in the last two weeks, Dr. Yezdani said it is important to record the body temperature accurately. “A record of 99 degrees on the thermometer is also being febrile,” she said.