57-yr-old Bengal man’s source of infection unknown

Updated on Mar 29, 2020 02:12 PM IST

Health officials believe he might have got infected on the train he took from Chattisgarh.

A 57-year-old railway employee became the first person to die of coronavirus in Bengal.(Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times)
A 57-year-old railway employee became the first person to die of coronavirus in Bengal.(Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times)
Hindustan Times, Kolkata/Raipur | ByHT Correspondents

Authorities are yet to trace the source of a 57-year-old railway employee’s infection almost a week after he became the first person to die of coronavirus (Covid-19) in West Bengal with officials maintaining that his case cannot be attributed to community transmission as he had took a train from Chhattisgarh on March 2 and may have been infected in that state or the train.

“This case cannot be tagged as a community transmission. Even though the victim did not travel to any foreign country and did not have a traceable contact with anyone who has returned from abroad, he had a travel history. He had been to Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh and had returned to Kolkata on March 2. He boarded the Azad Hind Express, which originated from Pune in Maharashtra,” said West Bengal health services director Ajay Chakraborty.

“We still do not know the source of his infection. We are trying to trace the contact. But we believe he might have got infected on the train. We do not know whether anyone on that train had travelled abroad.”

Maharasthra has the second highest number of Covid-19 cases in India, but the first was detected only on March 9, a week after the rail employee took the train that originated there.

The railway employee’s son and daughter-in-law are in the US, one of the Covid-19 hotspots, but he had not met them since July 2019. “Our son, who stays in Wisconsin, USA, visited us in July last year before he went to Philadelphia... There was fake news that he lives his Italy and came to visit us with his Italian wife,” the 57-year-old’s widow said. She is living in isolation at an undisclosed location.

His family has doubts over whether he indeed died of Covid19. “My husband was perfectly okay until he fell ill and had to be admitted to a hospital. Being his wife, I would have surely contracted the disease. So would have his 80-year-old mother who stays with us. I do not believe the hospital reports,” said the widow.

The railway employee attended a wedding in Bilaspur on February 28 before returning to Kolkata. A member of his family said the 57-year-old and his wife stayed with him and attended the wedding at a hotel in Bilaspur. “On February 29, they took a tour of the city with their friends. They left by Azad Hind Express on March 1. Both of them were perfectly fine,” he said.

The railway employee thereafter joined work on March 6, went to a shopping mall with his wife and had dinner before taking ill a day after celebrating Holi on March 10. He had a fever and was on March 16 admitted to a private hospital, where he was diagnosed Covid-19 positive on March 22. He died on March 23.

At least 300 people, including his colleagues and 13 families in Chattisgarh, have been asked to stay in home quarantine. Some members of his family have been kept in isolation wards of hospitals in Kolkata.

As many as 15 positive Covid-19 cases have been detected in West Bengal; 13 of them had either travelled abroad or had come in contact with people who returned from foreign countries. Two persons, including the railway employee, have not had traceable contact with anyone who may have come from abroad.

A 66-year-old, who travelled to Egra in East Midnapore to attend a wedding, is another person whose source of Covid-19 infection is still unclear. He is battling for life at a private hospital in West Bengal. The East Midnapore district administration has scanned at least 500 persons, who attend the wedding and 13 have been quarantined.

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