Hyderabad: Telangana may have been experiencing community transmission of the coronavirus for some time now. This is the phase when the disease spreads easily, with the virus having established itself in the population.
While there has never been official word about it, clues to incidence of community transmission can be found in what the daily Covid-19 bulletins released by the Health Department say — or, rather, do not say — and from information gleaned from other documents dealing with daily monitoring of Covid-19 patients.
With the Telangana state government severely cutting back on testing for Covid-19, it is difficult to provide concrete evidence that the disease has taken hold in the community, or at least pockets of it, where asymptomatic carriers or super spreaders could be spreading the disease to more vulnerable individuals.
The sero-sensitivity survey, recently taken up in three districts in the state by the National Institute of Nutrition on behalf of ICMR, is expected to throw some light on this issue when its results are made public.
It was on April 14 that the daily Covid-19 bulletin issued by the health department last said: “Till date there is no evidence of community transmission in Telangana.”
This phrase was introduced into the bulletins on April 4 following questions at Health Department press meets on whether the state was experiencing community transmission.
Since April 15, the phrase was dropped from the daily bulletins and the word “others” entered the official patient records as the ‘source’ from which patients began contracting coronavirus.
In the days that followed, “others” as the source of the disease along with “others contact” as people responsible for spread of the disease began appearing with increasing frequency in patient records.
Worryingly, a few hundred of the confirmed Covid-19 cases are listed as having contracted the disease from “others contact”.
Till April 15, since the first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed in the state on March 2, the disease source was listed as ‘foreign traveller’, ‘Markaz traveller’, ‘foreign traveller contact’, or ‘Markaz traveller contact’.
The two developments, the withdrawal of the daily denial of community transmission in the bulletins that claimed for 11 days that “till date there is no evidence of community transmission in Telangana,” and the introduction of ‘others’ as the source from which people were contracting the disease came close on the heels of one another, giving credence to the widespread belief among health professionals that the state long ago began experiencing community transmission.
An epidemic progresses in four stages:
Stage 1: Disease appears among people with travel history to places with the disease.
Stage 2: Infected person spreads the disease to family and friends and close contacts. It is still possible to trace all contacts.
Stage 3: Community transmission when disease spreads in public and source of the spread cannot be traced. This is phase is marked by geographically restricted hot zones or containment areas, members of community start developing the disease.
Stage 4: Disease containment fails and becomes an epidemic with growing number of infections and deaths.