KOLKATA: Asymptomatic Covid patients — a fallout of mass vaccination — are rising across city’s private hospitals, often leaving doctors stumped and delaying non-Covid treatment for which they are seeking admission. Scores of patients who had planned surgeries, procedures or implants scheduled since August have tested positive in mandatory Covid tests at the time of hospital admission though they had none of the usual signs of the virus. There could be several reasons behind this, say experts, including resistance offered by vaccination that blunts the impact of Covid.
Last week, a 70-year-old patient tested positive at the time of admission at Peerless Hospital for a knee surgery. According to doctors, he had no fever, cough or breathing distress. Nor had anyone in his family tested positive. “There have been several others like him who tested positive and had to be put in the Covid ward,” said Peerless CEO Sudipta Mitra.
At AMRI Hospitals, around 5% of patients seeking admission for planned surgeries have tested positive over the last two weeks. “They were completely asymptomatic and had to return without surgeries. Since they didn’t require emergency treatment, they opted for home quarantine,” said AMRI CEO Rupak Barua.
There have been asymptomatic Covid cases since the first wave but with vaccination, their number has increased as inoculation is resulting in mild and muted symptoms, says RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) intensivist Sauren Panja, . “That apart, ‘host factor’ also decides the severity of symptoms. Individual immune systems react differently to a viral or bacterial attack, generating mild or severe symptoms. Also, the viral load varies from one patient to another resulting in very pronounced symptoms in some and almost none in others,” explained Panja. He added that there could be a further rise in the number of such patients.
In a vaccinated population, the number of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients will rise exponentially, says Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education & Research (IPGMER) professor Diptendra Sarkar. “Mild or no symptoms will now be the order of the day. Asymptomatic patients prove that mass vaccination has had the desired result,” said Sarkar.
Panja, however, warned that asymptomatic patients need to be quarantined like any other Covid patient. “While they may not require strong medication, they are still carriers of the virus and may end up transmitting the disease to many. So, RT-PCR tests ought to be stringent now,” he said.
Rate of positivity has started climbing at Peerless Hospital since last week. “It had dropped to 2%-3% in August. It’s close to 10% now which is a spurt but most are again asymptomatic and have not been seeking hospitalization, choosing to recover in isolation,” said Mitra.
Ignoring Covid protocol, however, could be dangerous, warned Belle Vue Clinic internal medicine consultant Rahul Jain. “If the number of Covid patients swell, those with severe symptoms will increase, too. This could again lead to a rise in hospital admissions, which, we need to prevent. It’s better to have more asymptomatic patients provided we can quickly identify and isolate them” said Jain.

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