Coronavirus outbreak: More testing, hence more cases in state, says Maharashtra Surveillance Officer

Updated: Apr 22, 2020, 07:43 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

State Surveillance Officer Dr Pradeep Awate says Maharashtra accounts for 52,000 - or roughly 20 per cent - of the total 2,74,000 COVID-19 tests done in India

A policeman gets tested for Coronavirus in Thane. Pic/Sameer Markande
A policeman gets tested for Coronavirus in Thane. Pic/Sameer Markande

With 4,203 confirmed cases and 223 deaths, Maharashtra tops the country's Coronavirus tally. According to State Surveillance Officer (SSO) Dr Pradeep Awate of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP), the exceptionally high number of positive cases is also a direct result of the high volume of tests being done — more than any other state.

He told mid-day, "We are testing much more as compared to other states. The data of ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) as of April 15, shows that nearly 2,74,000 tests were done across the country and about 20 per cent (52,000) of them in Maharashtra."

"It is natural for Maharashtra to have more cases, keeping in mind that the population density is around 20,000 persons per square kilometre. There are counter strategies in place: people are working in every hotspot and cluster, going from house to house for surveys and trying to contain each place. The process will take time, but we are in the second phase of the lockdown and it has helped reduce the doubling rate. Slowly but surely we will have control over the pandemic."

Awate also stressed on the importance of conveying information in a timely manner, wherein districts give real-time COVID-19 data to the states and states to the Centre. "It is important to know what is happening in remote places in each state — and acting as fast as possible on this information," he said. "In any outbreak, timely action helps reduce mortality rates."

Integrating information
The functioning of the IDSP is twofold, says Awate. "The basic objective of this program is decentralisation of disease surveillance activities from district to the national level. The second objective is to facilitate the data from district to state, and from state to the country, with the help of modern improvised technology. Data transfer should be timely and fast."

"The most important is integration of all disease surveillance activity under one umbrella. Since we have private and public labs, hospitals, NGOs, and medical colleges that are different people working under different departments, the aim of IDSP is to integrate their information to make the district more capable of dealing with an outbreak."

Additional manpower
"We have surveillance at every district through an officer-in-charge who is assisted by a district epidemiologist, along with data managers and data entry operators. Every State Surveillance Unit comprises more technical staff, state epidemiologists, veterinary and training consultants and data managers. With 36 districts in the state, there are 108 officers working for IDSP. This is the additional manpower provided by the IDSP program, along with regular manpower at every district," Dr Awate said.

'High recovery rate'
"The data worldwide and even from China and India shows that out of every 100 patients, 95 are recovering. The death rate is 3-5 per cent — even in India. If 95 out of 100 people are getting cured, I think we should not fear because as of today, we know who are the ones at high risk and therefore should take precautions. Also, 80 people of the affected 95 are displaying only mild symptoms." He said 85 per cent of the people affected had been unwell before.

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