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Coronavirus: ICMR study hints at community transmission in India

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New Delhi, Apr 10: The latest study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has suggested that random coronavirus tests on patients with severe respiratory diseases are showing that more and more people with no travel or contact history are contracting the virus, hinting at the beginning of community transmission in the country.

According to the study, which has been published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, a total of (104) 1.8 per cent of the 5,911 SARI patients tested were positive for COVID-19.

Coronavirus: ICMR study hints at community transmission in India

Forty of these cases in 15 states and 36 districts had no history of contact with a known case or any international travel. "These districts need to be prioritized to target COVID-19 containment activities," the research states.

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'In all, 39.2 per cent COVID-19 cases did not report any history of contact with a known case or international travel,' the study said while two per cent reported contact with a confirmed case and one per cent reported recent history of international travel.

Data on exposure history was not available for 59 per cent cases.

The ICMR in its study highlighted that COVID-19 containment activities need to be targeted in districts reporting positive cases among SARI patients and stated that intensifying sentinel surveillance for COVID-19 among SARI patients may be an efficient tool to effectively use resources towards containment and mitigation efforts, it said.

Sentinel surveillance among SARI patients can help identify the spread and extent of transmission of COVID-19, the Indian Council of Medical Research said.

SARI surveillance was initiated in the early phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in India.

Even though the ICMR did not make any remarks in the paper's conclusion on community transmission, it had said in a press release on March 19 that it had initiated sentinel surveillance to detect community transmission of COVID-19.

"The council has been closely monitoring the presence of community transmissions in the country," the ICMR had said.

The ICMR has also changed the testing strategy that it would follow in the hotspots. Now everyone with influenza like symptoms (runny nose, fever, cough, sore throat) will be tested.

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With Wednesday adding 540 new cases, authorities are anticipating a surge in cases. Under this new strategy, clusters, large migration gatherings and evacuee centres where people are showing symptoms of influenza like illness will be tested irrespective of whether or not they had previous contact with a patient.

They will be subject to regular tests within seven days of the illness. If found to be negative, an anti-body test will be done after another seven days of illness.

In India, the initial COVID-19 testing strategy included people who had international travel history with symptoms, symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients and symptomatic healthcare workers managing respiratory distress/SARI.

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