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Medical experts explain some key facts you need to know about Covid-19

The Covid 19 crisis

Three eminent doctors: Dr. Rahul Kulkarni- Medicine Doctor and Intensivist at Sahyadri Hospital in Pune, Dr. Chaitanya H Balakrishnan, COVID Coordinator at St. John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore; and Dr. Nitin Yashas, Manipal Hospital, Goa participated in a webinar organised by the Press Information Bureau on Friday to answer key questions and provide a better insight into the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. 

Indianarrtaive.com brings to its readers a second list of these questions and what the top docs have to say: 

Can a fully vaccinated person be a carrier of the virus?

Dr. Yashas: The vaccine efficacy for Covaxin and Covishield was calculated two weeks after the second dose. Within this time period, any person can catch the infection, become symptomatic and also transmit. You have to have two doses of the vaccine and as studies have shown, protective antibodies start developing only after that.

Post-vaccination, chances of transmission reduces as viral load reduces in the body. Vaccination prevents symptomatic COVID-19. That is the endpoint.  So, yes definitely, even if a person has been vaccinated, he or she may still carry the virus, because of which the emphasis is on wearing a mask, following social distancing and hand hygiene protocol even if you are vaccinated.

Dr. Kulkarni: In vaccination centres, there are queues. When going for vaccination, wear a proper mask and keep it on till you are completely vaccinated. Don’t remove it until you reach home. The second wave started around the time vaccination started in the country. So, a lot of people have the misconception that they got infection from vaccination.

Dr. Balakrishnan: A lot of people who got COVID positive after vaccination blame the vaccine. But, if you have turned positive, it is because you have got exposed and infected. That’s it. It has nothing to do with Covaxin or Covishield. That’s something that the public really needs to understand.

Also read: Top docs bust myths and explain the plain truth on medicines for Covid-19

How to deal with patients who have recovered and again test positive for Covid-19 but have no symptoms?

Dr. Balakrishnan: RT-PCR test will detect any viral particle, especially the nuclear material of the virus. This can also be with some of the dead viral particles. Clinically look at the patient. Leave it to your COVID physician to take the decision. No need to panic.

Dr Yashas: A recent study has shown that patients who persistently test RT-PCR positive do not necessarily transmit it to someone else, for reasons stated by Dr. Balakrishnan. We see in a group of some immune-compromised patients that they may not have fully cleared the virus for which they are still testing positive. I think the treatment protocol, whatever said and done, is based on whether the person is symptomatic and whether the symptoms are mild, moderate or severe.

Mental Health during the pandemic

Dr. Yashas: Do not get worried by seeing news reports, sourcing information from Google or trying to fill yourself with negativity. We also need to understand that 80-85% of COVID cases are mild and there is a very good chance of recovery if early recognition and constant monitoring is done. So, if you are feeling anxious about the pandemic, speak to an expert and go for counselling. We have to remove the stigma which is associated with this pandemic both for the public and for the healthcare workers.

Transmission of COVID-19 from pregnant mother to child (foetus) during child-birth

Dr. Kulkarni: The data available till date is minimal as the disease outbreak started only last year. It is very uncommon. I have not seen any case where a new-born gets infected from the mother. Even if it happens, it is very difficult to assess whether it is a vertical transmission from or the baby acquired infection from somewhere else. The rate of infection in pregnancy has gone to the higher side in the last 15 months, like in every other patient. 93-95% of these patients are mild cases. No need to panic about it. But, if the patient is at  risk due to some immuno-compromises (like hypertension, diabetes etc)  or in the higher side of age (40 and above), then they may land up in some sort of complications, mostly from COVID Pneumonia. That percentage is also very low. We have not seen any mortality in such cases. In such cases, it is very important to visit a clinician on having symptoms, get thoroughly checked up and keep monitoring your vitals. It has also been seen in case of COVID-19 positive pregnant women, that the delivery may happen early. So, you need to be very careful in the last trimester of pregnancy, You need to keep regular contact with your physician and search for a proper COVID Centre where delivery can take place.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through breast-feeding to a new-born?

Dr. Yashas: As of now, we don’t have any evidence on it. COVID-19 positive mothers can breast-feed her child, but by following certain precautions like wearing a N-95 mask, probably a face shield,  hand hygiene etc., so that transmission which happens through respiratory droplets can be prevented as much as possible.    

Dr. Rahul Kulkarni: It is not advisable to use a mask on new-borns, unless they are at least 2 years of age. That can lead to other paediatric or respiratory problems.