To avoid cluster outbreaks similar to Chandigarh’s Bapu Dham colony, Panchkula health administration began collecting blood samples for conducting antibodies test to check for any community transmission in the slums of the city.
According to the recent sampling strategy, at least 1,000 samples will be collected from four colonies, taking 250 samples each either falling on the border of Panchkula or with a high population, including Rajiv Colony, Indira colony, Buddanpur and a combined 250 samples will be collected from Ashiyana colony and Industrial areas phase I and II.
The health department will be coordinating with 32 ASHA workers posted at these four slums. Each of them will further collect at least 30 samples from vulnerable groups of people, taking the total of collected samples to 960.
The vulnerable groups have been divided into four further groups where in five samples will be taken from each, including persons with hypertension, diabetes, tuberculosis or any other respiratory illness, people on dialysis or any chronic disease along with people who complain of severe acute respiratory syndrome or high risk persons, such as pregnant women, children with anemia et al.
Samples will also be collected from persons visiting the urban health centres and falling under the category of vulnerable groups, at Sector 16 and 19, where the slums are located.
This antibody test mechanism requires blood samples instead of swabs from nose and throat. The test also takes almost half the time to produce results as compared to the RT-PCR tests which is the current norm.
The department has procured as many as 12 kits, each of whom has 96 vials and may, thus, conduct 96 tests each time.
The health officials have furthermore assured that the testing kits are “not very costly and can easily be procured in case the need arise. In the meantime, we have already procured more test kits than are needed, as per our current sampling strategy,” says Deputy Civil Surgeon Dr Saroj Aggarwal.
The rationale behind conducting tests on a priority basis in slum areas is to escape having a cluster outbreak in the city, as had happened in Bapu Dham colony of Chandigarh.
“People here reside in small houses and in large numbers. They mingle a lot and take no precautions. There is almost negligible awareness in terms of importance of masks and other precautions or they just do not have the means to comply with them. People live far away in huge rooms in the sectors and follow the norms as advised. People in slums do not follow hygiene, they cannot wash hands several times in day, respiratory etiquettes are not followed, clothes are washed infrequently and interchange of masks is done. This may easily make the virus spread farther than we may possibly contain,” says Dr Aggarwal.
The tests will help the department to ascertain where they stand in terms of the spread- if there had been any in the past that escaped their eye or whether the phenomenon of community transmission has not begun in the areas.
The sampling of the same started Tuesday and will continue till next week.
10,000 antigen kits ordered
In the meantime, the district administration also communicated to the state its need for antigen kits. The anti-gen tests are faster than the other options and will be used by the administration in times of emergencies.
“These tests take less than half an hour to produce results and may be used on emergency cases, where RT-PCR is not feasible, such as when a woman under labour complains of breathlessness or an accidental case comes in,” says Dr Aggarwal.
The health department has estimated the use of almost 2,000 such test kits per month in their emergency and labour wings.
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