South African healthcare practitioners are observing a worrying trend in the hospital admission of COVID-19 patients of late – younger patients without comorbidities are now also acutely ill.
MOST OF ICU COVID-19 PATIENTS STRUGGLE TO BREATHE
Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse at the George Mukhari Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa, Elah Nkoane, says most of the COVID-19 positive patients she encounters in her unit experience a great difficulty in breathing.
She further notes that even the younger patients – below the age of 35-years-old – without any underlying illnesses like diabetes or hypertension now find themselves needing the assistance of ventilators to breathe. A North West-based specialist physician and Nephrologist who has asked not to be named has echoed Nkoane’s observations.
501.V2 IS 50% MORE CONTAGIOUS BUT NOT MORE SEVERE?
Earlier in the week Epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Professor Salim Abdool Karim revealed in a panel of scientists led by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize that the COVID-19 variant — 501.V2 – is 50% more contagious and spreads at a quicker pace but is not more severe.
The anonymous North West doctor isn’t in total agreement with Karim on this, explaining to The South African that on the ground it appears to her and some colleagues that the 501.V2 variant is “more aggressive, and does not follow the same course as the first wave”.
The specialist physician says in addition to the already vulnerable elderly patients, you now find relatively young individuals without any comorbidities in the intensive care unit on a ventilator. She says some will have a slightly elevated body mass index (BMI) but it’s still a cause for concern.
COVID-19 STIGMA PERSISTS
The specialist physician notes that more patients are seeking medical assistance at a very late stage in the development of illness/presentation of symptoms. And this can have a adverse impact on a patient’s recovery.
She attributes this to a fear of testing for COVID-19 brought on by a general stigma in society regarding the virus.
“The stigma is there, it does not matter, how you got corona, what matters is how to stay alive through it”
North West Specialist Physician
THE COVID-19 VACCINE ON ITS WAY
Last week, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced South Africa is via the Serum Institute of India this month receiving 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccine shots developed by AstraZeneca.
Roughly 1,25 million healthcare workers will be prioritised for the vaccine followed by the elderly. Mkhize says teachers and police officers will also be higher up the list to receive the shot.
Despite the good news, earlier in the week Abdool Karim reminded the public that the rollout will not be simple by any means.
“The vaccine rollout is not going to be easy or quick. It’s a mammoth logistical task that is going to need all hands-on deck”
Epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Professor Salim Abdool Karim