Asymptomatic family members of patients not being tested in Chennai?

The development has raised fears among those living with elderly persons and children.
(Image representational purposes) Indian citizens evacuated from Dubai by an Air India flight arrive at the Anna International Airport in Chennai. (Photo | Special Arrangement)
(Image representational purposes) Indian citizens evacuated from Dubai by an Air India flight arrive at the Anna International Airport in Chennai. (Photo | Special Arrangement)

CHENNAI: Recent incidents of Chennai Corporation not testing primary contacts of patients has raised a concern among residents who fear that this may put elderly people in their house in danger. 

Residents from Anna Nagar, Arumbakkam, Ayanavaram and Tondiarpet share similar stories of the civic body not testing the primary contacts and only advised people to get tested if they showed symptoms. 

A resident of Arumabkkam, on condition of anonymity, said that he was tested positive a week ago. “I live with my mom who is in her late 50s but the Corporation did not test them.  I asked them why and they said if she develops symptoms, she can get tested,’’ said the resident. 

He said that since he is home-quarantined and living alone with his mom, it would be impractical to take her to the RGGGH. “Who will take her to the hospital? We are also facing stigma in our household association. Corporation is supposed to come home and test,’’ he added. 

Dr Ramkumar, whose maternal uncle in Ayanavaram tested positive at the ICF hospital, said his family members were not tested. “My maternal grandmother has comorbidity and she is at risk. They said they would only test if there were symptoms,’’ he said. 

In the wake of this, the testing rates in the State too dipped marginally in the past five days going as low as 8,000 and rising back to above 12,000 on Sunday. 

Infectious diseases expert Dr Subramanian Swaminathan of Gleneagles Global Health City said that for domestic contacts, the rate of transmission is high. “But in cases of asymptomatic contacts, home isolation is fair enough and this form of infection control is not alien to us,’’ he said. 

He said that the price of testing kits are expensive and it needs to be prioritised for those who need it. “It is important to test all high risk contacts,’’ he said, however. 

Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr Vijayalakshmi of Kauvery Hospital says that all the contacts of the patients are exposed to the virus and testing needs to be higher at this point. “However, when the number of testing kits are not adequate, home quarantine is more than enough,’’ she said. 

Dr Vijayalakshmi said that at home, all the contats need to practice social distancing and have to use separate utensils like plates and tumblers, and also bed sheets and pillows. 

"Some elderly patients have have silent hypoxia. This means, they will look normal but oxygen saturation will be low. In such cases, we  monitor them from the hospital and ask them to get admitted if situation gets worse,'' said Dr Vijayalakshmi. For this, the  hospital had launched a bluetooth enabled pulse oxymeter to monitor patients at home. 

She added that elderly population needs to practice reverse quarantine while parents must be careful with children at home as they may get sick but carry the virus as they are asymptomatic. 

Corporation Commissioner G Prakash told Express that instances in which primary contacts are not being tested would be rectified. 

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The New Indian Express