CPPR Senior Fellow Dr Rijo M John comments in a article published in The New Indian Express on COVID-19.

Image source: The Indian Express

KOCHI: In Perhaps the biggest exercise to be undertaken in Kerala since the coronavirus outbreak, the Health Department has decided to monitor other fatalities reported across the state from now to check for community spread of Covid-19. The department has also asked the public and private hospitals to record the details of patients who approach them with fever and respiratory ailments.

At present, Covid-19 patients are mainly those who had come from abroad and their immediate contacts. With the state yet to start rapid testing, surveillance will have to be scaled up, said a health official. The need for investigation into other deaths came up for discussion at the Ernakulam district-level meeting last week. “Yes, a decision has been taken to check other deaths especially medical cases involving heart diseases, pneumonia, common flu and fever.

This is to ensure that no cases go undetected and there are no instances of community spreading,” said Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar, who is overseeing preventive activities in Ernakulam district. The state has recorded only one Covid-19-related death so far while two persons under quarantine died due to other ailments. They tested negative.

Heart patients are vulnerable

RIJO JOHN, health economist and senior fellow of Kochi based think tank Centre for Public Policy Research, said: “When Covid-19 cases go up and reach the community spread stage, other deaths have to be monitored as well,” he said. A health expert told TNIE that patients do not show Covid- 19 symptoms in certain cases.

“Heart patients are vulnerable to Covid-19. They may feel respiratory issues without having fever. Similarly, a large number of persons are undergoing treatment for normal pneumonia cases. Cold and fever are common in the state during summer.

Till rapid testing is launched in the state, all medical cases including deaths have to be monitored,” the official said. After reports emerged that some private hospitals turned away patients who approached them for normal cold or fever, the state government has issued a stern warning to all hospitals against providing treatment to patients on suspicion of Covid-19 infection.

This article was published in The New Indian Express on March 31, 2020. click here to read

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