Hyderabad: For the past fortnight or so, COVID-19 is confounding doctors in Hyderabad by showing up in the form of severe diarrhoea, vomiting, and headache. Until June 15 or so, the symptoms commonly reported by corona positive patients used to be cold, fever and breathlessness. They were so common that the health authorities limited testing to just those who reported those three signs: cold, fever and breathlessness.
But since June 15, doctors at the Chest Hospital and King Koti hospital in Hyderabad have been reporting that not all patients exhibit cold, fever and breathlessness but may instead have diarrhoea, vomiting, and headache.
The doctors are now confused. Until now, test samples were taken only from those who cough, high fever and breathlessness. And now must we test even those who have other symptoms as well?
One senior government doctor explained, “These cases (diarrhoea, etc) are presented as illness caused by food poisoning and change of seasons, etc. But it is really the virus that is causing it by attacking the gastrointestinal tract instead of the lungs. This triggers severe diarrhoea and vomiting leading to dehydration. This in turn leads to weakness, low oxygen levels, low blood pressure, low sugar and a sudden collapse. There are some patients for whom vomiting does not stop for two to three days and that needs hospital management. That is now being seen as a new presentation of the virus.”
Cases in government hospitals are confirmed for COVID-19 after 24 hours, but managing these gastro-intestinal infections requires stabilising the patients first.
Doctors find that the virus is changing its genomic structure according to the season and ensuring its survival and proliferation in the human body. A senior government doctor at Chest Hospital explained, “In the months of March, April and May, our concentration was on respiratory distress as that was the presentation. There were cases noted with scarring in the lungs. Lung scarring is noted now too, but along with these other symptoms. These changes mean that the virus has changed its strategy. It also indicates that SARS Cov 2 is mutating with the changing season.”
The worry for doctors is that people who have a stomach upset are not going to suspect COVID-19 as this has not been seen as a symptom of the disease. One just needs to be aware of this and not panic, doctors say.
There were 62 COVID-19 deaths in Hyderabad from June 20 to June 30. Of these, 30 took place in a matter of hours after admission and the symptoms were not the regular ones. That set the doctors thinking.