22-May-2024  Srinagar booked.net


Concern After Covid: Haunting Winter of Cold and Cough in Kashmir

"It feels as if COVID looms at the doorstep annually, and the regular bouts of flu and cough persist throughout the year”



Up on the hill overlooking Srinagar city’s Dalgate chowk, the Chest Disease Hospital looks haunted with its dark brown-rusted gable roof, exuding an air of history. As chest diseases rise in the Kashmir valley, people of all age groups tread towards the steep incline, where coughing patients, all wearing masks, recline and struggle to breathe.

Photographs By Zubair Hammed 

Inside the OPD, Jaana Begum, 40, looks perplexed waiting for her turn in a long queue and blames COVID for her deteriorating health. 

“After experiencing COVID, my entire lifestyle underwent a transformation, impacting my health pointedly. It feels as if COVID looms at the doorstep annually, and the regular bouts of flu and cough persist throughout the year," shares Jana, her voice trembling as she struggles to maintain her composure.

As a working mother before the pandemic, Jaana recalls the drastic changes in her strength and memory post-COVID.

"I almost encounter COVID every year; sometimes, doctors call it RSV, Influenza," she says.

“Although I don't currently have COVID, doctors keep a close watch on my oxygen saturation. As soon as I remove my oxygen mask, I experience a sensation of breathing without truly feeling the oxygen," she shares, pausing to sip her tea.

“Without support my body shivers as I step-down from my bed,” Jaana Begum tells The Himalayan Post.

"And winter exacerbates the situation," she adds.

Beside Jaana stands Maryam, a 25-year-old postgraduate student, her face bearing a pallor as she clutches a prescription card.

COVID, she notes, has dramatically altered her health, leading to symptoms typically uncommon in young personages.

 "I feel like I'm in my forties; my knees and back ache if I stand for too long. Since COVID, I've observed how weak I've become," Maryam shares.

The impact of these diseases extends beyond the physical, she says, affecting mental health with feelings of anger, loss of appetite, and irritation.

In the midst of the influx of patients, Dr. Naveed Nazir maintains a hectic daily schedule. When questioned by The Himalayan Post about the link between COVID-19 and chest diseases, he explains that while many COVID-19 patients recover, a notable few may experience the onset of severe multisystem neurological diseases.

He attributed the surge in chest infections and allergies to Kashmir's freezing temperatures.

Contrasting this, Dr. Dawood Banday, a pulmonologist expert in Srinagar notes the rise in diseases like RS Virus, Influenza, bacterial infections, and fungal infections in the community, suggesting a potential link between the rise of chest diseases and COVID.

“Diseases like RS Virus, bacterial infections and fungal infections have indeed risen in our community and Covid-19 can be involved as the disease comes up with fibrotic changes and worsened lung diseases but no definitive studies have been conducted to upkeep this claim.”

“If these diseases are not taken seriously, it will lead to heart failures,” Dr. Dawood adds.