Updated: November 30, 2021 8:00:14 am
One out of 5,885 — or 0.02% — recovered Covid-19 patients were reinfected in Mumbai, data analysed by the BMC has shown.
Of the 7.41 lakh Covid patients who were surveyed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from the start of the pandemic till November 1, 126 patients were found to have been reinfected with Covid-19 after recovery.
In general, reinfection means a person was infected with novel coronavirus once, recovered, and later became infected again due to exposure to a different or similar strain of Covid-19.
“There is a rising fear among people of getting reinfected with variants of novel coronavirus. We are getting several requests from hospitals to allow booster shots for healthcare workers. But on the ground, data shows that such cases of reinfection are minimal,” said Suresh Kakani, Additional Commissioner, BMC.
Mumbai recorded the most reinfection cases in the second wave due to higher infection rate of Delta variants. Data accessed by The Indian Express show that 82% of the reinfected patients didn]t have any comorbidities. Of the remaining 23 patients, 12 had diabetes and 11 had hypertension.
Out of the 24 wards in Mumbai, only four wards — A (Fort), E (Byculla) FS (Parel) and PS (Goregaon West) — recorded zero cases of reinfection. However, in K-West (Andheri West), 40 of the recovered patients recontracted Covid-19–the highest in Mumbai. This is followed by M-West (Chembur) with 15 reinfection cases. Then comes T (Mulund) ward where 14 patients contracted Covid-19 more than once.
The study-SARS-CoV-2 Immunity and Reinfection Evaluation (SIREN) — concluded that immune responses from past infection reduce the risk of catching the virus again by 83% for at least five months. But the researchers also found that people who become reinfected can carry high levels of the virus in their nose and throat, which increases the chances of transmitting the virus to others.
“Epidemiologically, we haven’t witnessed a significant difference in the reinfected population. But unvaccinated, single-dose vaccinated or immunocompromised patients suffered severe symptoms of reinfections,” said Dr Hemlata Arora, senior consultant, infectious diseases and internal medicine, Nanavati Hospital.
‘Underreporting a possibility’
Doctors highlighted that the reinfection figure may not provide the real picture as many reinfected patients remain asymptomatic and unreported.
“There is a paucity of broad testing and surveillance and hence we do not know the actual rate of reinfection, and this is all the more amplified as there may be an even bigger pool of asymptomatic undetected reinfections…,” Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, Consultant and Head Critical Care, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim.
Healthcare workers on duty — due to higher exposure in environments where there are more cases of Covid-19 — are more prone to reinfection by the virus. Data shared by Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors show that 60 resident doctors were reinfected with Covid-19 in the last two months.
A series of Right to Information (RTI) filed by The Indian Express shows that civic-run medical colleges don’t have any data of reinfection among its students. In response to an RTI, King Edward Memorial (KEM) Parel — the biggest civic-run hospital — replied on October 21, “For re-infection genomic sampling testing needs to be done. As our hospital doesn’t have genomic testing and all samples of healthcare workers cannot be subjected to genomic sampling, hence this data cannot be provided.”
Sion Hospital in an RTI response on November 12 stated that they don’t maintain the data.
Dr Ramesh Bharmal, director of major civic-run hospitals, said that medical colleges have sent samples of medical students for genome sequencing to Kasturba Gandhi Hospital. “I don’t know why the college administrators responded like this, but we have the data,” he said.
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