FAQs — Second Wave of Covid-19

The following is a transcript of Kashmir Observer’s facebook live interview with Dr Khawar Achakzai, Registrar General Medicine, SMHS 

What is so different about the second wave? Is it more virulent? Is it more severe?

More young people are getting affected by the second wave. Apart from the symptoms that were associated with the first wave like pneumonia, breathlessness etc., there are some new symptoms. There are lots of people who start with gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain. A good number of patients coming are young which is completely different from the last year.

Would you say that the mutant strain that has been found in Kashmir and in parts of India as well is responsible for the rise in Covid positive cases this time?

A mutation is a phenomenon with the virus. Viruses keep mutating. Ascribing the second wave entirely to mutants would not be wise. That would be exonerating people and other things which have just added up to what we have right now in the form of a catastrophe that we are looking at. Mutants could be responsible but then ultimately reducing everything to mutants would not be right. People have been very careless and they have not been following SOPs very well.

In a recent study, we found that Coronavirus may be airborne? What are the implications of those findings? Do we have to have a relook at the SOPs at all?

There have been studies and research conducted by various research bodies and journals that have concluded that a good portion of the Covid transmission could be airborne. Previously it was believed that Covid transmits only through droplets.

It is important to differentiate between droplet transmission and airborne transmission.

Droplet transmission is an infection that spreads through exposure to virus-containing droplets like saliva and other particles that are exhaled by an infectious person. Transmission is most likely to occur when someone is close to the infectious person distance because the droplets fall after travelling a certain distance. So there is a certain distance up to which the virus could travel.

Airborne transmission is an infection that spreads through exposure to those virus-containing droplets composed of smaller droplets and particles that can remain suspended in the air over long distances. The new research has found that Coronavirus associates with particles of lesser mass. So the range of transmission and the movement of the virus has increased, that is, the virus travels more distance than in the droplet transmission.

SOPs do not change but they have to be followed more strictly.

  • Previously we would say that wear a mask only when you have people around but now you have to wear a mask at all times even when there are no people around and preferably you have to double mask yourself.
  • The rooms have to be properly ventilated.
  • Avoid going to congested areas whether that is mosques, wedding or funeral gatherings. Stop flocking the markets unnecessarily and if there is a dire urgency, you have to make sure that you wear a mask at all times. Rather than one, wear two masks.
  • Wash hands with soap and sanitize hands regularly.
  • All of these protocols and guidelines have to be followed meticulously and religiously now. There is absolutely no scope for a pitfall or a caveat anywhere.

How to double mask?

As far as Covid-19 transmission is concerned, N-95 masks always remain a standard. But we know they have not been prescribed for the general population because of the limited number of masks. The preferred mask for the general population is the surgical mask. The virus cannot go through the surgical mask.

First, fit the surgical mask tightly against the sides of the face so that there is no gap between the face and the mask while the mask completely covers your nose and mouth. If you have a cloth mask, preferably multi-layer, fit that snugly over the surgical mask. The surgical mask prevents the virus from moving beyond it while the cloth mask acts as a mechanical barrier for the droplets and the particles that carry the virus.

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