A central government team is in Pune to investigate the case of a 41-year-old anganwadi worker who could be the first instance of community transmission of the novel coronavirus in the country.
The health worker, who was admitted in a private hospital in the city on March 16, is reported to have tested positive of the disease (COVID-19) but district administration said her test result would be confirmed only after the central team makes its assessment.
“We are not confirming it yet if she is a first-contact case (having been infected through someone who travelled abroad) or a case of community spread of the virus. The government of India team from Delhi is examining her and assessing the case. We have provided them all the information and once they finalise the assessment, we will share her result,” Deepak Mhaisekar, Divisional Commissioner of Pune, said.
“All I can say at the moment is that this person has tested positive and we have first and second contacts up to 100 people, including a taxi driver who was used by a positive patient. We have sent the driver to the Naidu hospital,” he said.
On Saturday afternoon, the woman was shifted to the state-run Naidu hospital, where she was put on a ventilator. Hospital authorities said her condition was critical.
All the positive cases in India so far have been either of people who travelled abroad, or those who came in contact with foreign travellers carrying the virus. If the Pune woman is indeed found not to have contracted it from someone who became infected while travelling abroad, she could be the first confirmed case of community spread of the virus in the country, raising concerns over the possible presence of a group of people who are not part of the surveillance effort and not being isolated. Such people could spread the virus rapidly in the community.
The Pune woman was admitted in a private hospital on March 16 after she had complained of breathlessness and did not recover despite the efforts of a local medical practitioner. The hospital had sent her swab to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) to check for possible infection with H1N1 virus. That turned out to be negative, but NIV, these days is checking all such samples for the novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) as well. And the sample turned out to be positive for SARS-CoV2.
Till Saturday afternoon authorities were in a dilemma whether to officially document this case as a corona positive. State health officials conceded that she could be the first evidence of the community spread, or what they called Stage III of transmission in India. Stage I transmission is of people who get infected while travelling abroad, while Stage II refers to the situation when people who come in contact with infected foreign travellers get the virus.
“She is being treated at Bharti hospital and the health department is aggressively tracing the persons she may have contacted,” District collector Naval Kishore Ram said. He said all the people she may have met from between March 3 to 16 were being traced and being advised home quarantine.
At the Bharati hospital, medical director Dr Sanjay Lalwani said samples of her immediate ten contacts were sent to NIV to rule out COVID19. “The persons have not shown any symptoms but they have been directed to observe home quarantine. These include the woman’s husband, two children, mother, and a few other immediate relatives,” he said.
The swabs of four doctors who she had contacted have also been sent for further tests at NIV. Meanwhile, another 25-year-old man who returned from the United Kingdom and Ireland, tested positive for the virus late on Friday night. There are now 23 positive cases in Pune.
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