Doctors say some of the 2.8 lakh known cases in the third wave are starting to show the lingering effects of the Omicron attack.
MUMBAI: Forty-five-year-old Parvati (not her real name), who had been dreading Covid-19 since March 2020, was initially relieved that her coronavirus symptoms, including fever of 101 C, lasted fewer than 48 hours in January. A month later, she has been unable to shrug off the “feeling of fatigue”. “I could walk for five kilometres without feeling tired, but now I can barely walk a couple of kilometres,” she said.
She is not the only Mumbaikar with the prolonged effects of Covid-19. Doctors say some of the 2.8 lakh known cases in the third wave are starting to show the lingering effects of the Omicron attack.
“Although the length of the Omicron infection was smaller than that of Delta, some patients are showing signs of long Covid. The most common of these prolonged symptoms are fatigue and muscle pain,” said Dr Pratit Samdani from Breach Candy Hospital.
Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the state government task force on Covid-19, said doctors are now seeing patients with early signs of long Covid. Long Covid is the term used for recovered Covid patients who have some lingering symptoms in the long term such as fatigue, breathlessness, and neurocognitive difficulties such as brain fog.
“The long form of Covid was common during the first and second waves, with people suffering for months or over a year with post-Covid problems. We are now seeing early signs of long Covid in patients who suffered from the Omicron variant,” said Dr Joshi.
Dr Samdani estimates that two out of every 10 patients of Omicron experience some lingering problem.
While Omicron has often been referred to as “mild Covid” compared to the earlier SARS-CoV-2 variants such as Delta, which caused the second wave and the highest number of deaths, there are now indications that the Covid variant which caused the third wave is not as benign as presumed.
A senior doctor from a civic hospital said that the main difference between the Omicron and Delta waves is vaccination. “Earlier, people were not vaccinated. Now around 90% of Mumbaikars are fully vaccinated and hence suffer mild symptoms of Covid-19,’’ said the doctor.
In other words, it is not the virus that has become benign, but that people’s immune system is better prepared to handle it. This is reflected in the fact that unvaccinated people suffered worse symptoms — and got hospitalised — than those who took the vaccine.
Still, doctors said that the number of patients with lingering symptoms and their severity is proportionately lower than during the first two waves.