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Random testing: Big spike in COVID-19 cases among patients with acute respiratory illness, shows ICMR research

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Out of 5,911 SARI patients randomly tested for COVID-19 from February 15 to April 2, a total of 104 (1.8 per cent) tested positive for COVID-19 across 52 districts in 20 states and UTs.

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi | Updated: April 10, 2020 10:55:07 am
coronavirus india cases, coronavirus testing, covid-19 testing push, covid-19 india death toll, india lockdown, coronavirus testing centre india, coronavirus tests In 15 states, more than 1 per cent of the random samples were positive, and in eight states, more than two percent. (File Photo/Representational)

Coronavirus (COVID-19): The percentage of random positive samples of COVID-19 among severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) patients across the country has increased incrementally over the past month, new ICMR research says.

Out of 5,911 SARI patients randomly tested for COVID-19 from February 15 to April 2, a total of 104 (1.8 per cent) tested positive for COVID-19 across 52 districts in 20 states and UTs.

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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Only two positive cases had contact history and one had international travel history; 59 had no available data, the research states. The positive cases were found disproportionately in men and those over 50 years.

ICMR officials have said random surveillance can determine if India’s outbreak has entered community transmission.

States with a high proportion of positive samples out of their total SARI samples were Delhi (5.1%), Telangana (4.2%), Maharashtra (3.8%) and Andhra Pradesh (3.1%) – states with some of the highest confirmed positive cases overall.

Maharashtra also saw a widespread of random positive cases in eight of its 36 districts, the researchers found.

West Bengal has a low number of reported cases overall, but a high number of randomly positive cases (3.5%). Uttar Pradesh had a random positive rate of 1.4%, and Madhya Pradesh had 2 per cent, according to the research.

States with a large number of confirmed cases but not many randomly positive cases are Kerala (0.2%), Tamil Nadu (0.9%), and Rajasthan (0).

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The median age of positive cases found in the sample were 54 years, and 83 per cent were males. In addition, 91 per cent were over 40.

The initial testing strategy included people who had international travel history with symptoms, symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients, and symptomatic healthcare workers managing SARI patients. In addition, a random surveillance testing of a number of SARI patients was also conducted.

Between March 15 and 21, two out of 106 patients (1.9 per cent) tested positive, the research says.

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On March 20, the strategy changed, and all SARI patients were tested for COVID-19. Between March 22 and 28, 54 out of 2,069 (2.6 per cent) tested positive. Between March 29 to April 2, the highest percentage of patients tested positive: 54 out of 2,069 (2.6 per cent).

“COVID-19 containment activities need to be targeted in districts reporting COVID-19 cases among SARI patients,” the research states. “The data presented pertained to patients seeking care from selected sentinel hospitals that were predominantly in the public sector in urban areas and hence might not be representative of the entire district, State or country.”

The research also said there is a possibility of false negatives.

In 15 states, more than 1 per cent of the random samples were positive, and in eight states, more than two percent.

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