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Growing evidence of asymptomatic cases who are unknowingly infecting others, have sparked concerns (AFP)
Growing evidence of asymptomatic cases who are unknowingly infecting others, have sparked concerns (AFP)

Coronavirus: India's biggest concerns are COVID-19 patients with no symptoms

  • Worldwide data showed that 80% of total coronavirus cases had no or mild COVID-19 symptoms, health ministry said
  • Almost 70% of coronavirus patients in India who were tested did not show any symptoms of the infection

Around 69% coronavirus patients in India who were tested did not show any symptoms of the infection, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said. Till now, India has tested a total of 4,47,812 samples and out of these, 19,984 people were positive. Worldwide data showed that 80% of total coronavirus cases had no or mild COVID-19 symptoms, health ministry said.

Growing evidence of "silent spreaders" who are unknowingly infecting others, have sparked concerns. “Among the total coronavirus tests conducted so far in India, 69% were asymptomatic and 31% were symptomatic. Which means for one positive patient when we initiated contact tracing, on average we found two asymptomatic patients," ICMR’s head of epidemiology and communicable diseases Raman Gangakhedkar said.

When there are asymptomatic cases, the chances of a patient reporting them are low, Gangakhedkar added. Around 65% coronavirus cases in Maharashtra did not show any symptoms, according to an analysis by HT on Sunday. In Uttar Pradesh, 75% of the COVID-19 cases were of people with no symptoms.

Speaking of asymptomatic cases, the health ministry said that they were using community surveillance and contact tracing approach to tackle asymptomatic cases. If there is an asymptomatic case in a field with high risk and direct contact, then that sample is also being collected for testing. "This way we are able to identify infected patients in early stage, treat them and reduce mortality," said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary, health ministry.

Citing the observation of WHO, Agarwal said, "There are few reports of laboratory-confirmed cases who are truly asymptomatic, and to date, there has been no documented asymptomatic transmission. This does not exclude the possibility that it may occur."

More testing?

Experts say that the expansion of testing strategy could help to detect more coronavirus cases in India. ICMR last updated its testing strategy for COVID-19 patients in India on April 9. The revised strategy mentioned that asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case should be tested once between "day 5 and day 14" of coming in his or her contact.

ICMR also tests all symptomatic individuals with an international travel history in last 14 days. All symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases are being examined. Besides, all symptomatic health care workers are being checked for COVID-19 infection. Along with that, testing of all patients with severe acute respiratory illness (fever and cough and/or shortness of breath) should be done. ICMR are also conducting regular tests in COVID-19 hotspots identified by ministry of wealth and family welfare.

With 1,383 fresh cases reported in last 24 hours, India's COVID-19 count today has reached 19,984. The death toll has climbed to 640. Maharashtra remains the worst affected state with 5,218 cases and 251 casualties.

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