BENGALURU: With the government unable to trace the contact source of more than 9,000 patients in the State, senior epidemiologists say it is high time the government announces community spread, and begins ‘sentinel surveys’ to micro-manage the situation. “Community spread had to happen, and there’s nothing the government could have done to prevent it. It’s time to announce this and educate people on what needs to be done to ensure they seek help when they exhibit symptoms,” said a senior virologist.
He says that people need to be told about community spread so that it brings a sense of responsibility. “The government should not consider community spread as its failure. People should know it’s the community’s responsibility, what symptoms to look out for and how to isolate themselves,” he said. Sentinel survey has helped to understand the extent of spread of the virus in the community, in states like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
“Sentinel survey with RT-PCR diagnostic modality, antigen-based and serological method to test select groups to pick up fresh Covid-19 cases, will surely pay off. This needs to start soon,” said Dr Giridhara R Babu, professor, Indian Institute of Public Health, and adviser to the State.A well-known virologist, who didn’t wish to be named, explained that ‘sentinel survey’ in a few states has yielded good results in breaking the chain of transmission. “Under the initiative, hundreds of people are tested regularly. They could include cases of fever, Severe Acute Respiratory Infection and those suspected to have come in close proximity to positive cases, as per the Aarogya Setu app,” he said.
Migrants who have left, healthcare workers/government officials on Covid-19 duty, people who have returned by train, shopkeepers, tailors, vegetable and fruit vendors, industrial workers etc can be tested.
Dr Babu added that this will help understand the disease trend. “Isolating people, if they test positive, is crucial to break the chain of transmission. It will also help to understand how immune people are.”
Based on this data, the State can micro-manage the situation by locking down a particular area and ensuring containment of the virus. “Right now, it is important to delay the spread of the virus so that we are ready with healthcare facilities. Government should not see community spread as it’s failure, but should be ready to manage the situation,” the senior virologist explained.
Once the government plans a lockdown, it should ensure availability of beds in hospitals in that area, ambulances, contact tracing, advice on home or institutional isolation, provide a list of go-to officers etc.
Dr MK Sudarshan, chairman, Karnataka Covid-19 Technical Advisory Committee, said ‘Sentinel survey’ has been approved by the committee and they are awaiting the nod from the health minister and additional chief secretary.