Community transmission of Covid-19? Here’s what health experts say

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Published: July 20, 2020 11:06 AM

It simply refers to a stage of the disease infection where it becomes extremely difficult to ascertain or trace the source of the infection or who is spreading the infection to whom.

Without ascertaining the source of the infection, the health professionals are unable to follow other steps like contact tracing, identification, testing and isolation which are vital to curb the spread of the disease.

The course of Covid-19 infection is surging fast and the country has so far recorded more than 11 lakh cases, however the government insists that the country has not reached the stage of community transmission yet. However, several scientists and health experts who spoke to the Indian Express on the condition of anonymity think otherwise and say that the government position is indefensible. However, they also added that leave aside the propriety of the government’s move, it no longer mattered whether the government acknowledged community transmission or not.

What is Community Transmission?
It simply refers to a stage of the disease infection where it becomes extremely difficult to ascertain or trace the source of the infection or who is spreading the infection to whom. Unlike the initial days when almost every Covid-19 patient had either returned from abroad or been in touch with somebody who had already tested positive, it has become extremely difficult for the health professionals these days to ascertain the source of infection in the population. Without ascertaining the source of the infection, the health professionals are unable to follow other steps like contact tracing, identification, testing and isolation which are vital to curb the spread of the disease.

Vineeta Bal, an immunologist and a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune told the Indian Express that the government’s claim was untenable and every epidemiologist, outside of the government would only say the same. Another senior scientist who is advising one of the state governments in the country went on to say that there was some “hard evidence” and data to show that the country has been in the community transmission stage for quite a long time. He added that his team had come across hundreds of cases where there was no visible chain of transmission. Wanting to remain anonymous, a scientist said that he had signed a non-disclosure agreement with the state government.

Referring to the survey conducted by the government body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) itself, Shahid Jameel, a virologist and chief executive of Wellcome Trust-DBT Alliance said that the ICMR survey had found that 40 per cent of the respondents who were suffering from serious respiratory illness had no clue about how they got infected with the disease. He wondered if that was not community transmission and said that it is better to be honest about matters related to Science.

Guessing the reasoning behind the government’s insistence, Jayprakash Muliyil, former principal of CMC Vellore said that one of plausible reasons behind the government’s reluctance is that once the government concedes it would be impossible to hold people from disregarding the Red zone or Green zone guidelines as none of it really makes any sense in case of community spread.

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