Coronavirus, the old one that existed before SARS Cov-2 that triggered the Covid-19 pandemic, is among the viruses that are causing many Kolkatans to suffer from fever and respiratory distress, virologists and doctors said.
Hundreds of people, including children, are admitted to hospitals, several in critical care units with lower respiratory tract infections.
Swab samples since January this year have shown a high presence of Adenovirus, Metapneumovirus, Parainfluenza virus, Bocavirus and Rhinovirus, along with non-Covid 19 Coronavirus. Some doctors said they were also seeing the presence of influenza viruses like H3N2 and Influenza A.
All these viruses cause respiratory diseases, doctors said.
Some of the doctors said a few of their patients with respiratory diseases were detected with pneumococcus bacteria. The bacteria can cause pneumonia and bloodstream infections.
At ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, 500 samples were tested in January, out of which 32 per cent were detected with Adenovirus, 13 per cent were detected with Parainfluenza virus and 12 per cent with Rhinovirus, said an official of the institute.
“We have also found Coronavirus which is non-Covid that had existed before the pandemic. It is to be seen whether the character of the virus has changed,” said the ICMR official.
At the Institute of Child Health, Kolkata, too Coronavirus has been detected among a few children with respiratory diseases. “Along with Adenovirus, Bocavirus and Metapneumovirus, non SARS Cov-2 coronavirus were also found in the samples ,” said Apurba Ghosh, director of the hospital. He said more than 40 per cent of the children admitted to the hospital now are suffering from respiratory diseases.
Doctors said the existence of Coronavirus is known for years now.
“We know about the existence of Coronavirus for more than 20 years now. It created symptoms of the common cold and is not as harmful as SARSCov-2. SARS-Cov-1 was the first highly pathogenic coronavirus followed by MARS and then SARS-Cov-2 that had caused the pandemic,” said Chandramouli Bhattacharya, infectious diseases expert at Peerless Hospital.
Doctors said there were no specific drugs to treat the respiratory tract virus infections and in some cases, vaccination was the only way.
“We usually see the prevalence of influenza and other respiratory tract infections in the winter and monsoon. It is advisable for people, particularly the elderly and those who have compromised immunity, to take influenza vaccines before these two seasons,” said Sayan Chakraborty, infectious diseases specialist at AMRI Hospitals.
The hospital group’s three units at Dhakuria, Mukundapur and Salt Lake had 89 patients admitted with various respiratory diseases, said an official of AMRI. The three units have 730 functional beds.
“A 12-bed respiratory ICU set up at AMRI Salt Lake is full. The 10-bed pediatric intensive care unit at AMRI Mukundapur is also full with 50 per cent of the patients infected with Adenovirus,” said the official.
Several other hospitals are also having many patients with respiratory diseases including breathing problems.
RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences has its 100-bed medicine ICU full on Friday, out of which more than 40 per cent are those suffering from respiratory infections.
“We have seen a surge in patients with respiratory infections in the last three weeks,” said R. Venkatesh, COO, east and south of Narayana Health that runs the RN Tagore hospital.
The Telegraph had reported a severe crisis of beds at several private hospitals across Kolkata and patients have to wait for even 24 hours at the emergency wards to get a bed. Most hospitals had said a sharp increase in respiratory tract infections was the reason for such a crisis of beds.
However, some of the hospitals said there were other factors too.
“Along with patients with respiratory diseases, beds are also being filled up by patients getting admitted under Swasthya Sathi, West Bengal Health Scheme and other insurance packages,” said Pradip Tondon, CEO of Belle Vue Clinic. “The number of patients getting admitted under the first two categories is now more compared to before,” he said.