High mortality rate of 5.7% continues to hound Punjab
National rate is 3.1%; state has seen seven deaths over the past fortnight; low testing, no knowledge of viral load are some of the reasons behind the high rate, says Dr KK Talwar, head of state’s group of expertsUpdated: Apr 28, 2020 00:55 IST
With seven deaths over the past 15 days taking the number of casualties due to covid-19 to 19 in Punjab on Monday, the high mortality (death) rate continues to hound the state. Of 330 patients, the death of 19 means a mortality rate of 5.7%. The national mortality date is 3.1% (886 deaths of 28,380 cases).
These figures put Punjab among the category of states having the highest mortality rate in the country. The number of tests the state has conducted to date is 15,516. On April 15, HT had highlighted that the mortality rate (then nearly 7%) was double the national average at the time. The figures change daily.
Even as the state is blaming testing hurdles during the initial days of the pandemic for the higher rate, neighbouring Haryana, where the testing has followed a similar trajectory, has a much lower mortality rate of 1%, with three deaths of 301 cases. It has conducted 22,993 tests to date.
If states test aggressively, chances are high that the infection could be controlled as a large proportion of the cases are found in asymptomatic persons,experts say, adding that the isolation of such patients could stop the ‘silent spreading’ of the disease.
Last week, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh had ordered a detailed audit of each covid death by experts to understand and check the high mortality rate. The UT of Jammu and Kashmir, which has 546 cases, has recorded seven deaths to give a mortality rate of 1.2%. The state has done 14,988 tests.
“The high death rate is a cause of concern. Delhi, with a lower population than Punjab, has more number of deaths, but its mortality rate is lower, as their testing is far higher. In Punjab, our testing, because of few impediments at the start, has got a major push only two or three days ago. Our mortality rate has decreased since,” said Dr KK Talwar, former director PGIMR Chandigarh, who is heading Punjab’s group of experts tackling the covid-19 crisis. The group comprises Dr Raj Bahadur, vice-chancellor, Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS), Faridkot; Dr Rajesh Kumar, former head, school of public health, PGI, and experts from PGI and John Hopkins University, US.
Dr Talwar also listed the large number of foreign visitors including NRIs, visiting Punjab just ahead of the lockdown as another factor contributing to the high mortality rate. “I am not saying anything against the arrival of such persons, as they are part of us. Nobody, however, knows what sort of viral load these travellers were carrying when they visited Punjab. There is no data available to map the viral load of this virus,” Dr Talwar said, adding that the presence of co-morbid diseases among those who died and their late detection was also relevant.