India's deadly Covid-19 second wave has devastated big cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Pune. Hospitals and crematoriums have run out of space, and funerals are taking place in car parks. But the pandemic has now firmly gripped many smaller cities, towns and villages where the devastation is largely under-reported. Like the 1918-20 Spanish flu, the second all-India surge of the Covid-19 pandemic has been more devastating than the first.

It has also appeared to be different from last year’s surge in several ways, increasing worries and anxiety.

Because an asymptomatic person, who carries the virus, would have spread the infection. In India, experts say, 80-85% of the population are asymptomatic. They continue to be the largest carrier of the virus, and in a closed indoor setting, asymptomatic person will transmit the virus even when he or she is talking. Also, asymptomatic people don’t isolate themselves in a home setting.

A combination of a large asymptomatic population and the presence of more infectious variants of the virus during the second wave, which is much steeper than the first wave that peaked in September, continues to transmit the virus even to those who are staying indoors. With the virus is changing its form rapidly and with new variants being discovered, newer and unusual symptoms are being noticed in recently infected patients.

However, classic signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include - fever (with or without chills), shortness of breath, cough, headache, body aches, sore throat, a loss of sense of taste or smell, nasal congestion, fatigue, and muscle soreness. Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing (dyspnea), is one of the early symptoms of coronavirus, predominantly seen in infected patients during the second wave of COVID-19.

Besides this, other newer symptoms of the second wave of COVID-19 infection, that you must be aware of include:

1. Gastrointestinal tract infections: Your GI tract comprises the main organs of digestion, including the mouth, food pipe, stomach/gut, small and large intestine. Any disturbances in your GI system can wear down your immunity and hamper overall health. Symptoms of GI tract infections associated with COVID-19 include loss of hunger, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loose stools.

2. Hearing loss: Hearing loss is one of the symptoms in the second wave of COVID-19 infection. It may range from mild, moderate to severe which results in a sudden hearing loss, impaired hearing, or ringing sound in your ears (tinnitus). This starts early in the first week of infection and resolves over a period of time

3. Extreme lethargy and weakness: Extreme weakness and lethargy have been reported as one of the early symptoms of the COVID-19 infection, more so during the second wave. Once your body identifies the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) as an invader, it initiates the immune response to fight the virus, and this can result in the infected person feeling tired and weak.

4. Pink eye or conjunctivitis: Pink eye is an infection of the eye which results in the swelling of the outer transparent membrane (called the conjunctiva) of your eyelid and eyeball. Common symptoms include itching, redness, and tearing of the eyes, which results in puffy or watery eyes.

5. Diarrhea: Diarrhea or loose watery stools is one of the widespread symptoms seen in COVID-19 patients during the second wave. Reports suggest most individuals affected with COVID-19 complained of persistent diarrhea for 1 to 14 days, with an average duration of 5 days. Since diarrhea is not usually thought to be a symptom of COVID-19 and can be a result of other digestive issues, there is a delay in getting tested for COVID-19 and hence, a delay in the identification of potential COVID-19 positive patients.

6. Headache: Sudden headaches can be a symptom of COVID-19. A normal headache that continues for a long time and does not subside with painkillers, is being reported as one of the newer symptoms seen during the second COVID-19 wave.

Precautions to be taken:

With COVID-19 spreading fiercely in many parts of the country, it has now become extremely important to follow all the precautionary measures besides wearing a mask to keep infections at bay, health experts have said. 

It is important to understand that the COVID-19 virus spreads mainly from person to person. Therefore, coming in close contact with a sick person can put one in danger. Doctors have therefore advised that in times like these, indoor social gatherings could be full of risks.

There is an urgent need to maintain social distancing of at least six feet. People need to understand that this virus is spreading via droplets in the air. We are at an important juncture in our fight against COVID and need to be very careful and vigilant. People should try to minimize touching their eyes, nose, and mouth at all times. Even if one wears a mask but doesn't maintain social distancing and keep it below the nose then also, she or he is at the risk of getting infected.