A 26-year-old frontline worker, Dr Shrushti Halari, who served at the Mulund Covid centre, has tested positive for Covid three times in a row since July 2020. Incidentally, the last two infections occurred in a matter of month when Dr Halari was mostly at home focusing on her post-graduation preparations, and being fully vaccinated.
“Honestly speaking, I do not know how I got it for the second or the third time, third time I got it as a reinfection of the second time. The first time I definitely got it because I was working as a frontline worker seeing patients,” she said.
Dr Halari said when she decided to take a break and stay home to prepare for post-graduation there were minimal chances of being exposed to the virus. She was either in her flat, or in the library.
“I rented a flat in my building, so it was about going from fourth floor to ground floor for studying purposes. And I used to go out for a walk with my dog but I use to wear a N-95 masks, not normal ones,” said Dr Halari.
While reinfections are reported among doctors across the globe, experts are trying to find out the reason behind this peculiar case where an individual is infected thrice.
Dr Halari, who tested positive the first time on June 17 last year, had no symptoms. However, when she was tested RT-PCR positive on two more occasions on May 29 and July 11 she showed mild flu like symptoms. Her antigen test count was 5600 though, and the viral load significantly reduced in eight days after getting medical attention indicating that the vaccine was very effective in the battling the infection.
“It is surprising but any vaccine is not hundred percent effective, so I knew at the back of my mind I could have been in the 15 percent as Covishield is 85% effective, but the only thing is it was not life threatening," she said.
Nothing can be ruled out at this point, neither a case of reinfection, nor a new variant of covid-19 at play, or simply an RTPCR test gone wrong. But this is a stronger virus strain which is definitely more transmissible, considering this is the first time Dr Halari’s entire family - mother, father and brother - all with comorbidities caught the virus.
“I was admitted in hospital this time; my entire family tested positive, starting with my mom who’s a diabetic, so we didn’t want to take chances - we started with remdesivir and also gave her famous Trump cocktail - there was no lung involvement. Same was given to my brother and father - both have comorbidities.”
Dr Halari, on the other hand, was treated with only Remdesivir and antibiotics. “Within 8 to 10 days the viral load went down significantly. For the family members it’s the first time they tested positive,” she said.
When Dr Halari tested positive the first two times, she hadn’t passed on the infection to her parents, unlike the third time. “The transmissibility of this variant is concerning."
The medical practitioner is glad she did not confuse her symptoms with side effects of vaccine jab and got herself tested to ensure timely treatment from the deadly virus that gripped her entirely family this time around.
Meanwhile, Foundation Of Medical Research and city’s municipal corporation, the BMC, has taken swab samples of Dr Halari and her brother for genome analysis and variant studies in this case.
Suresh Kakani, Additional Commissioner, Health, BMC, said, “Even after vaccination, a person can be infected due to Covid. Mask and Covid appropriate behaviour need to be maintained.”