THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kasaragod continued to be the hotspot of Covid-19 epidemic in Kerala after the total number of infected persons in the district rose to 108 on Tuesday, but the state health department should be worried more about Pothencode near here where a 68-year-old died. His case could be a pointer to what the state had feared the most — a possible community transmission — as it is still unclear as to how the man, with no international travel history or known contact with a confirmed case, contracted the virus. Abdul Azeez, who tested positive on Sunday, died at the Government Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, late Monday night.
Thiruvananthapuram reported two of the seven new cases on Tuesday while the other infected persons were from Kasaragod (two), Kannur, Kollam and Thrissur (one each). The fatality in Pothencode could be an indication of the presence of asymptomatic or silent carriers in society, said health officials.
The department is also not ruling out the possibility of people who are not very sick or have not yet developed symptoms becoming stealth carriers of the virus, thereby triggering a community transmission. The department is planning to conduct mass screening — rapid antibody tests — for the first time in the state at Pothencode. Kits for the tests have started arriving and the initiative is expected to speed up identification and isolation of the infected.
“The deceased doesn’t have an international travel history to any of the disease-affected countries nor is he a contact of a confirmed case. Thus, there’s a chance that he might have got infected through a silent carrier. If that’s the case, we’re going to deal with community transmission,” said a health department official. The official said China had scaled up prevention and control activities after many asymptomatic infections were reported. A section of the experts, however, said it is too premature to say the Pothencode case is a result of community transmission.
‘Incident does provide some leads’
“THE possibility of silent carriers can’t be ruled out. At the same time, without any conclusive details, it can’t be said that community transmission has happened in the state. The Pothencode case does provide some leads, but let’s wait for the final report. The department is considering it as a special case. We’ll tweak our prevention and control methods,” said a senior officer. A member of the rapid response team said: “The health department is not in the dark. It has specific plans for dealing with worst-case scenarios like community transmission. First, we need to find out if there is a spike in influenza or acute respiratory illness cases in Pothencode grama panchayat.
If there is an increase, then the cluster containment strategy will have to be rolled out.” As per that, the priority is to determine the disease early and contain it within a specific geographic area by breaking the chain of transmission and thus preventing its spread to new areas. For the same, geographic quarantine, social distancing measures, enhanced active surveillance, testing all suspected cases, isolation of cases, home quarantine of contacts and social mobilisation to follow preventive public health measures will have to be implemented.
State starts identifying Nizamuddin returnees The state government has started identifying the Malayalis who attended the recent Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin. As many as 54 people from the state attended the meet, a majority of whom returned in the second week of March. Most of them are in home quarantine.