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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Separated by a year, deaths of two infants who had Covid-19 confound experts

What remains a mystery in both cases is the source of infection in the infants as none from the hospital staff who treated the babies or their families, tested positive.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: April 14, 2021 11:33:27 am
PGIMER, Covid-19Prof D Bahera, head, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, PGI, said that the viral load of the new variant is more, though some studies do indicate that the overall mortality is less. (File)

As numbers pertaining to the fresh cases of coronavirus infections and fatalities keep scaling peak after peak, buried in that Covid-19 tally is the data of two infants, one from Kapurthala and the other from Barnala, who have become the youngest victims of the pathogen in Punjab.

Both the infants died – nearly a year apart — at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh where they were scheduled to undergo complicated heart surgeries, but tested positive before they could be operated upon.

While a six-month old girl from Kapurthala’s Phagwara died in April last year soon after the pandemic outbreak, a one-and-half month old boy from a village in Mehal Kalan of Barnala district breathed his last on March 29 this year amid the ongoing second wave in Punjab.

However, what remains a mystery in both cases is the source of infection in the infants as none from the hospital staff who treated the babies or their families, tested positive.

State nodal officer for Covid-19, Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, said that 0.1% of the total deaths have been reported in age group of 0-14 years in Punjab this year. “The infant boy from Barnala died at PGIMER while doctors were waiting for his negative Covid report before the surgery,” said Dr Bhaskar.

He said that in cases where none from family tests positive, there was a chance that the child might have caught infection while undergoing treatment in the hospitals. “In both cases of infant mortality in Punjab, the babies were admitted at hospitals for their heart conditions. So they might have contracted the infection during their stay in different hospitals,” said Dr Bhaskar.

The two cases

Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Arun Kumar Baranwal, professor, pediatric emergency, PGIMER Chandigarh, said that the baby from Barnala was suffering from a congenital heart condition — Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Connection (TAPVC), which is a birth defect and requires an early but complicated surgery.

“The baby was referred to us on March 17 and tested for Covid. The result came out positive and he was shifted to Covid care. The surgery had to be deferred. We were waiting for him to test negative so that surgery could be performed. However, the baby died of heart failure on March 29,” said Dr Baranwal, adding that had surgery been conducted immediately, the baby “might have lived”.

The infant’s mother said that some days after his birth on February 5, the boy had started having breathing issues and his heartbeat was faster than usual. “We took him to many hospitals for check-up and were referred to PGIMER for surgery. But none from our family, including myself who would be with him all the time, have tested positive for Covid. From where did my baby get the infection,” she asked.

About the first infant death that was reported from Punjab in April last year, Dr Baranwal said that the 6-month old girl was referred from SPS Hospital in Ludhiana for a heart surgery but tested positive after staying for around 20 days at PGIMER.

“The girl was admitted for corrective heart surgery but tested positive during pre-surgery tests. However, none from entire staff who treated her or family members, had tested positive. She died before the surgery could be performed,” said Dr Baranwal, adding that in both cases babies did not die of Covid but because of their heart conditions. “However, had they not tested positive and surgeries were conducted in time, they would have lived,” he added.

Head of pediatrics department at PGIMER, Dr Surjit Singh said that research was still ongoing to know how newborns and infants were testing positive even when none from their close contacts had the infection. “The infants might have caught infection while traveling, or from other persons who might have come in their contact. Nothing conclusive can be said on their source of infection. However, families must take precautions and avoid contact of their newborns with outsiders during pandemic,” he said.

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