Doctors raise alarm over new symptoms exhibited by COVID-19 patients

Medical practitioners have in recent weeks raised concern over what appears to be a third wave of COVID-19 in the country following a gradual increase in the number of infections recorded.

But while that seems to be the case, patients are now presenting new COVID-19 symptoms away from the usual fever, and dry cough.

The once-perplexing array of symptoms like coughing, fever, shortness of breath, and loss of taste and smell are now very familiar to doctors around the country. But over the last few months medical practitioners have raised concern over the symptoms presenting in COVID-19 patients, not just globally but also here in Kenya.

A new poster has been put up at the Nairobi West Hospital to serve as a reminder to the staff about other prominent symptoms present in COVID-19 patients among them; chest aches and pains, diarrhoea, discoloration of fingers and toes, skin rash and conjuctivitis.

“One of the things we have noticed is that the majority of patients are coming in with difficulty in breathing with no fever or anything, and by the time they are admitted quite a majority of them will require intensive care,” said Dr. Andrew Gachie, the Chief Medical Officer at the facility.

Other facilities like the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) are also recording patients coming in with the not so classic COVID-19 symptoms.

“Some rare symptoms we have seen are for example diarrhoea, vomiting, headache, and occasionally a rash. We haven’t seen discoloration too commonly but it might be because of the affecting of the vessels by COVID-19 which forms clots,” said Dr. Loise Ombajo, Infectious Disease Specialist at KNH.

While researchers have a better grasp of the disease now, there is still much to learn as the virus continues spreading and mutating, presenting itself in unexpected ways.

Here in Kenya, the upsurge in the number of infections in recent weeks is a source of concern.

“By mid-February, our wards were empty…in fact, we had only 2 patients and they were in critical care in the ICU…by the end of February we started noticing that the numbers were going up, as we speak now we have 38 patients who have been admitted in the last two to three weeks,” said Dr. Gachie.

He added that in the last 24 hours, the Nairobi West Hospital has admitted 10 COVID-19 patients, out of whom 6 are critically ill with a majority of them being between 30 to 45 years of age.

“Could we be dealing with a new virus or what, scientifically, is called a new mutant of the virus? These are the questions we need our scientists to tell us. We need to be very careful about this virus, we’re not yet out of the woods,” he stated.

Dr. Ombajo, on her part, said: “Even in country we have had a few variants, it’s only that they have not been of concern, but whether specific different variants lead to different set of symptoms, I’m still not very sure about that… I think that’s an area that will be of significant interest as time goes by and an area of study.”

A January 2021 survey from the United Kingdom, created by the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Public Health England and Wellcome Trust, discovered that there are some slight differences in symptoms for those who had the U.K COVID-19 variant compared to the normal mutation.

However, the COVID-19 vaccination drive has already kicked off in counties like Kiambu, Taita Taveta, Machakos and Nandi.

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