On Thursday morning, a 28-year-old driver employed with the excise department in Kannur district of Kerala succumbed to Covid-related complications. His death, reportedly without any co-morbidities, and the infection, the source of which has not been established, is proving to be particularly testing for health officials in the state who have so far sidestepped doubts of silent transmission of the virus within the community.
Sunil Kumar, a resident of Padiyur and employed with the Mattannur excise range office, was admitted first to a private hospital on June 12 with symptoms of viral pneumonia which had been persisting for a few days. He worked at the excise office travelling extensively in the area till then. After his medical condition turned critical, he was referred to the Pariyaram Medical College, the apex hospital in the district for Covid treatment. His swab samples were taken on June 14, the results of which came back positive on June 16. Follow Coronavirus India LIVE Updates
“At 9:55 am today, he died. We are not aware of any co-morbidities, but the deterioration of his medical condition was quick,” said Dr Narayana Naik, the district medical officer.
“Since he was a driver, naturally he has travelled to a lot of places. He’s likely to have many primary contacts. His colleagues in the excise office and the others he may have met are being added to the list. We are also trying to found out where and from whom he got the infection,” he added.
Dr Naik said the virus can spread very fast in a person’s body if his/her immune system is weak, irrespective of the presence of any underlying medical conditions.
“This is a critical situation. We cannot say where and how the virus will affect people. So far, in Kannur district, most deaths are of elderly persons who were suffering from co-morbidities. This, however, was a sudden death of a 28-year-old. We have to be very careful.”
The death of Sunil Kumar is the 21st in the state due to Covid-induced complications. According to statistics of the health department, this is the second death of a person without underlying health conditions. In the death of a 65-year-old person in Kollam district on May 31, health officials had been unable to pin-point whether the death was due to co-morbidity. The source of infection was not found either.
Statistics show that 14 of the 21 deaths (70%) in the state were of people above the age of 60. There were three deaths in the age group of 41-59, three in the 18-40 age group and one death in the 0-17 age group. On a separate note, the death of Mahe-native Mahroof has not been included in Kerala’s list of casualties despite him passing away at the Medical College in Kannur. Officials argue that since Mahe falls under Puducherry union territory, his death must be counted in the UT’s list.
What heightens fears in the corridors of the health department is that nearly 20% of all Covid cases have been found to have neither travel history nor a primary or secondary contact with an infected person. The origin of infection in these persons, some of whom have died due to complications, have not been established by health officials. Between March 23 and June 6, the source of infection in 60 persons has not been discovered out of which 49 are in six districts – Kannur, Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur, Kollam, and Thiruvananthapuram. This has prodded experts to wonder whether Kerala may already be in the midst of silent community transmission.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sidestepped such queries repeatedly, maintaining that there’s no conclusive evidence of community transmission where an exponential rise of cases can be expected. He cites sentinel surveillance sampling as part of which those on the frontline who have high social exposure including health workers, migrant workers, police officials, grocery vendors are routinely tested. As of June 17, 32,300 samples out of 33,559 samples of such persons have come back negative. The data on samples that tested positive is not available. The government
However, he has admitted that the state is on the cusp of community transmission and therefore does not warrant the lowering of guard on the part of the public. As of June 18, Kerala has reported 2697 cases, out of which 1350 are active and 1324 have recovered. Malappuram (221) has most cases, followed by Thrissur (147) and Kannur (136).
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