No community transmission of Covid-19 in India, random tests negative: ICMR

Community transmission takes place when a person tests positive for the disease but doctors are not able to trace the source of the infection.
India has so far registered three deaths and 166 coronavirus positive cases.(REUTERS)
India has so far registered three deaths and 166 coronavirus positive cases.(REUTERS)
Updated on Mar 19, 2020 05:18 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

There is no evidence of community transmission of the coronavirus infection in India as all samples collected randomly to check the spread of the Covid-19 disease have tested negative, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director-general Balram Bhargava said on Thursday.

“All random samples that we tested for severe acute respiratory infections are negative for Covid-19. This suggests there is no community transmission in India yet,” Bhargava said.

India has so far registered three deaths and 166 positive cases.

 

Community transmission takes place when a person tests positive for the disease but doctors are not able to trace the source of the infection. It indicates undiagnosed and often asymptomatic people are unknowingly causing infection, which makes it difficult to break the chain of transmission.

ICMR has been conducting community surveillance by lifting random samples from intensive care unit (ICU) patients suffering from severe acute respiratory infections (SARI), including severe pneumonia. These samples are taken from people with no travel history or contact with a positive patient.

All of 826 samples collected since March 15 have returned negative for Covid-19, ICMR said in a statement. Nevertheless, ICMR has decided to further scale up random testing, Bhargava said.

“ICMR has been closely monitoring the presence of community transmissions in the country. Since February 15, ICMR has initiated sentinel surveillance to detect community transmission of Covid-19. The surveillance sites have been scaled up from 16 sites till Feb 29, 2020, to 51 sites by March 15, 2020,” the ICMR statement said.

The body will focus on strengthening surveillance in 18 states from where positive cases have been reported, especially Maharashtra and Kerala, which are reporting the maximum cases.

 

A section of experts says the sample size is too small and that community transmission began in India two-three weeks ago.

According to ICMR, India is still at stage II of the disease. There are four main stages of disease outbreak. Stage I is usually when cases are imported and are not of local origin. Stage II is when there is local transmission, which means a section of people testing positive have come in contact with a positive patient having a travel history. Stage III is community transmission. Stage IV is an epidemic, when there several clusters of the infection.

“The exercise of random testing is to establish evidence of community transmission,” said Dr Nivedita Gupta, scientist, ICMR. According to Gupta,a sample returning positive would mean that the infection has found its way into the community. That would call for a change in the disease control strategy, she said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022