With four people who turned up at hospitals in Karnataka with Severe Acute Respiratory Infection dying of coronavirus infection in the last four days, the state government has instructed 651 fever clinics around the state to measure oxygen saturation of all patients at the clinics as a first step to screen for COVID-19.
Health and Welfare Department director Dr Om Prakash Patil has issued instructions to all fever clinics in the state to procure pulse oximeters to determine oxygen saturation levels of patients reporting breathlessness. Dr Patil stated in the order that several SARI and influenza cases with COVID-19 infection may otherwise be missed in the screening.
As of Friday, Karnataka has had 40 people infected with SARI testing positive for COVID-19 – this includes 12 of 22 people who died — making up 7 per cent of the 589 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state so far. As many as eight people with influenza-like illness cases (1 per cent of the cases) have also tested positive for coronavirus so far, raising concerns of community transmission.
A total of 651 fever clinics at government and private facilities are screening people with SARI and influenza-like illness for possible COVID-19 infection using infrared thermal scanner, which only measures body temperature and fever.
“It is being noted that many ILI and SARI cases are presenting mainly with breathlessness and cough, which are missed during screening and may turn out positive at later stages,” Dr Patil stated in an order dated April 30.
“It has come to the notice of the State that fingertip pulse oximeter is an essential tool for stratification of ILI and SARI, and must be made available at all fever clinics. All ILI and SARI cases with less than 95 per cent peripheral oxygen saturation should be subjected for Covid-19 swab test,” according to the order.
A pulse oximeter measures blood oxygen carried by hemoglobin, and a less than 95 percent reading can indicate breathing and lung trouble. There are 31 fever clinics in Bengaluru, 523 in other parts of the state and 97 clinics in private hospitals and medical colleges.
The department has stated, “Fever clinics being the first point of contact in the process of passive surveillance, it is imperative that we have not just a robust way of screening, but also to stratify the cases and enable prompt and priority-based services and referrals.”