In the second wave, coronavirus is spreading fast within families as compared to the previous year, health experts in Kashmir say.
More and more families, with all or most of the members, are getting infected as people living in close spaces, particularly in Srinagar, are more prone to contracting Covid.
“The virus during this wave is more communicable. That is the reason that the number of cases is rising immediately and virus is spreading fast within families. This year, a Covid patient’s chances of infecting others are more than last year,” said Dr Rouf Hussain Rather, community medicine specialist and in-charge of data analysis at divisional Covid control room.
“Family means a unit. It rarely happens if anybody gets infected that his family won’t be affected. Such cases are more this year,” he said.
Rather attributed the exponential increase in cases in the second wave to two key factors — virus being more communicable and absence of lockdown.
President of Doctors Association Kashmir and an influenza expert, Dr Nisar ul Hassan, said that new studies have proven that Covid spreads more in indoor settings as it is airborne.
He said that there are more contributing factors specific to Kashmir. “Climate is one of the reasons. Even in summers due to chilly weather, our doors and windows remain closed. You are vulnerable because of the climate and because of congested places. There are less nuclear families here and most people still live in joint families in Old City. After hospitals, these houses can be super-spreading places,” he said.
With all or most of the members getting infected, families are approaching many social organisations and NGOs for help.
Members of Athrout Kashmir, an organisation engaged in philanthropic work in the Valley, said they have been witnessing multiple cases where entire families have been infected with Covid.
“The last two days have been very emotional at Athrout. We are receiving several such cases. Yesterday, a Covid patient walked into our office for an oxygen concentrator for his mother. He said his entire family has tested positive and he has nobody else to arrange oxygen support for his mother,” the organisation mentioned on its Twitter handle.
In another post on Saturday, it said: “A man walked into our office today requesting for (an) oxygen concentrator for his mother. Seven of his family members were tested positive and he was the only one who had escaped the virus. He said, ‘Life is no less than a nightmare when seven of your family members need oxygen supply’.”
The organisation said that it has issued 30 oxygen concentrators and BIPAP machines in the last 48 hours. “Every machine provided carries a sorrowful tale of plight and helplessness. We request all such unfortunate families to please call on our numbers and we will ensure help reaches you,” Athrout said.
Another organisation, SRO (Social Reforms Organisation)-Kashmir has now asked such families to contact them for food and other needs.
“If whole family has reported COVID+ and there is no one to cook your food. DM (direct message) with your number and location. Someone with whom we have tied up will call you. Only DM, don’t use our helpline for this. Srinagar city limits only,” it said on its Twitter post.
The doctors say that when the whole family gets affected by Covid, it takes away the support system of the patient.
“The Covid decimates the support system of a patient which is the gruesome part of it. When a person gets sick in a family, generally other members pitch in and try to serve the patient, but in Covid, most of the times 60-70% family members are involved. So one loses a big support system when he/she is ill or critically ill,” said Dr Asif Wani, lecturer at government medical college in Srinagar.
“What I understand is that it is not only a medical emergency but a socio-medical emergency. Besides the medical, there are social implications of this disease as well,” he added.