Tests not the only way to track COVID-19 spread in community: Experts

While testing has been the key in the ongoing fight against Covid-19, experts say that apart from mass testing, there are other ways to assess the extent of infection in a community. 

Published: 24th April 2020 06:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th April 2020 09:47 AM   |  A+A-

Health workers collect swab samples from people for COVID -19 tests in New Delhi on Thursday April 23 2020. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav/EPS)

Express News Service

KOCHI: While testing has been the key in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, experts say that apart from mass testing, there are other ways to assess the extent of infection in a community. 

Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) as well as tracking severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) cases and influenza-like illness (ILI) can also help monitor the virus spread.

“Ensuring who all are affected by the virus is a huge task that requires mass testing kits and manpower. Testing can be done for treatment and also to know the magnitude of the disease. Other surrogate markers like tracking under the IDSP and checking the monthly records of acute respiratory infections (ARI) can be done. SARI is also now closely monitored. Therefore, we’ve mechanisms here to know where the disease stands. If the pneumonia cases have increased in the past two months, then we are already exposed to the virus in a big way,” said Dr Anup R Warrier, Department of Infectious Diseases, Aster Medcity, Kochi.

“There are no indications of a community spread in Kerala as of now which is a good thing as we have enough time to tighten our surveillance and track patients with respiratory infections consulting a doctor or getting admitted,” said Dr NK Sanil Kumar, a Kochi-based general surgeon.

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He added that it has now become mandatory for all the major private hospitals to send the report on the fever and respiratory infection cases in the hospitals to the district medical officer. 

“Rapid testing all is practically impossible and therefore with these data and reports, a general trend of the disease can be known and measures can be adopted to tackle it,” said Dr Sanil.

Meanwhile, the government and healthcare centres have strengthened their surveillance in the wake of COVID-19.

“Directions have been given to all private and government hospitals to send the data on the number of patients arriving with fever, breathlessness and acute respiratory infections. We’re closely monitoring the cases and so far there has not been any need for panic in terms of community spread,” said a health official.

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