A year after the Coronavirus pandemic wrecked our collective lives, our society has been grappling with fear and insecurity. As a result, we have seen misinformation spread like wildfire, and many resorting to bizarre and incorrect methods of dealing with the virus. With this column, which will be published every Sunday, we aim to address any health or vaccine-related question our readers might have about the coronavirus pandemic.
In this week’s column Dr. Marcus Ranney — who had worked in NASA’s Kennedy Space and Royal Air Force in the past and is now a frontline medic in the fight against COVID-19 and Founder of Human Edge — has replied to readers’ queries. Dr Ranney has answered questions on how long the vaccine stays effective, why white and black fungus cases need aggressive treatment, and why children catering health sector needs a boost before the upcoming third wave of covid.
Why is it being said that children will be more affected during the third wave?
It is often said that failing to plan is the equivalent of planning to fail. Therefore, it is important to plan for children for the third wave, especially because the entire under 18 population will be the only population where vaccination would not have started by then. However, the key is to access the risk, without panicking.
The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) has said that though children remain susceptible to infection, it was “highly unlikely that the third wave will predominantly or exclusively affect children”. Children can get infected and can spread the infection to others. However, the impact is mild among children.Generally, they do not require hospitalisation and symptoms may not be present. It is being observed that almost 90 percent of the infections in children so far have been mild or asymptomatic.
There are guidelines on the management of the newborn and children, please follow them. Taking a proactive approach is vital; to plan for and better manage a third wave of COVID-19. Efforts must be made to not allow children to become part of the transmission chain. Different states have come up with new task forces and expert panels exclusively for children, and are expanding pediatrics wards, to ensure there are enough beds.
How long will the COVID vaccine protect someone?
Mounting evidence suggests the antibody protection lasts at least six months, but beyond that remains unclear, simply because the studies have not had a chance to measure them yet. Scientists are working on producing new data, almost weekly, that brings us closer in understanding just this. However, we will have a clearer picture in a few months. Ideally, anyone worried about fading vaccine protection could get tested for Covid-fighting antibodies, the primary defense against the virus. But cancer patients and others with impaired immune systems should regularly get tested.
We must not forget that the B-cell mediated antibody response is just one of the mechanisms the immune system mounts to protect us from the virus. The innate mechanisms and T-cell mediated, are also present to protect us in the long term.
What is Nasal aspergillosis? Why are Covid patients experiencing this disease?
Aspergillus is a type of fungus which lives both indoors and outdoors. Bodily responses, caused by Aspergillosis, mainly include infections locally, in organs or allergic reactions. People with weak immune systems or lung diseases are exposed to catching this infection and developing health problems. Fungal infections are said to be increasing in COVID-19 patients due to poor immunity, irrational use of steroids, raised blood glucose levels and possibly a thromboembolic link causing microvascular defects due to SARS-COV2 itself.
Non-sterile water, which is used to hydrate the oxygen supply, may possibly also be responsible for the infections. Patients who have undergone organ or stem cell transplants are at higher risk of getting infected. It is clear that they are multi-causal in nature. People with weak immune systems should avoid going into dusty areas like construction
sites. While handling soil and manure, precautions like fully covered clothes, N95 masks should be followed. Tracking any disease at an early stage prevents it from becoming worse. Blood tests can reveal the existence of this infection in patients, but the first step should be to consult a doctor.
Can excessive use of zinc and steam lead to an outbreak of black fungus? If so, how?
There is no clear evidence showing causality between these factors. Fungi can thrive in a zinc-rich environment. Steam - in excess - can damage the delicate mucus layer and even cause burns along the mucosa, making it easy for fungus to breach our natural defence. My recommendation would be to take zinc supplements as per your doctor’s guidance and
steam in moderation.
What are the symptoms of white fungus? What test has to be conducted to identify white fungus? Was white fungus seen in patients pre COVID?
White fungus is not the same as a black fungus. The former is a mild fungal infection, mostly due to Candida. The commonest manifestation is as Oral thrush and in most instances can be treated very easily with the appropriate antifungal medication. Those with frail immunity, suffering from diabetes, and have been on steroids during Covid-19
treatment for a long period are vulnerable to candidiasis.
However, white fungus can become dangerous if it impacts vital organs like the digestive tract, lungs and brain.
Why does the COVID vaccine have an adverse effect on people with allergies?
All vaccines are made up of many chemicals and biological agents, each of which can trigger an immune mediated response, in some cases hypersensitive or allergic in nature. If you are worried about pre-existing allergies, you can visit the official Ministry of Health website in India ( https://www.mohfw.gov.in/ ) or discuss your exact concerns with a medical practitioner.
Post the vaccine, you must ensure that you stay for observation, for 30 minutes as directed and communicate any symptoms you may experience with the medical staff present.
Does someone who has had Covid still need to take the vaccine?
Yes, it is advisable to receive a complete schedule of COVID-19 vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19. This will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease. Wait for 4-8 weeks after recovery from COVID symptoms before getting vaccinated.