India reported the biggest single-day spike today with 4,213 infected coronavirus cases, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 67,152. Out of these, 20,917 patients have recovered and there are 44,029, while the death toll stands at 2,206. Metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad have been demarcated as red zones and Mumbai has been the worst-hit city in India. The COVID-19 death toll crossed the 500-mark in the city.
According to recent media reports, around 334 coronavirus ‘super-spreaders’ have been found in Ahmedabad. Reportedly, the government officials in the city believe that there are around 14,000 high-risk potential super-spreaders in the city. All of them will be screened in the next three days. Why are these people being deemed as super-spreaders? Why is this term being used in the analysis of the transmission pattern of the virus?
Although there isn’t a strict medical definition given by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a super-spreader is a person (mostly asymptomatic cases) who infects significantly more people than an average infected person would. This means that while some carriers infect two-three people, super-spreaders may infect hundreds or thousands of people.
The WHO has not been using super-spreaders as a technical term. However, the transmission pattern of multiple people getting affected by a common source has been acknowledged by the public health authority.
There are multiple theories on how a person becomes a super-spreader, but there has been no definite answer. A few theories blame it on the super-spreader’s immune system that’s either so weak that it cannot fight the virus or it could be so strong that the infected person doesn’t feel any symptoms and hence transmits the virus to others.
While the understanding of the novel coronavirus is still evolving, and according to experts being certain that an infected person is a super-spreader is difficult. A report by CDC says that “Although we still have limited information on the epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), there have been multiple reports of superspreading events (SSEs)However, there have been a few cases in India that have been identified as super-spreaders as the transmission rate was seen to be higher in these cases.”
A number of cases in India have been identified as super-spreaders by the local authorities. A few days ago, 10 vegetable and fruit vendors in Jaipur, three people from Ahmedabad, a biryani delivery boy in Bhubaneswar and a grocery store owner from Tuglakabad, Delhi were identified as the new class of COVID-19 super spreaders by the authorities. All of these people had no travel history to the coronavirus hotspots.
According to officials, most of the spreaders were asymptomatic and were identified only after a large number of cases were reported from the places they had visited.
In Odisha’s Bhubaneshwar, a biryani delivery boy is responsible for turning a residential society into a containment zone. In Lucknow’s Qaiserbagh, eight persons got the virus from a vegetable vendor, including three members of his family.
In March, residents from 20 villages in northern India were quarantined after coming in contact with a 70-year-old man who died of coronavirus. The man attended a festival in Punjab and had ignored the advice to self-quarantine himself after returning from a trip to Italy and Germany.
Experts say that there’s no way of knowing whether an infected person is a super-spreader or not. Therefore, the only way to come up with better strategies for the government is to keep mapping the patterns of transmission. And for us, it’s important that we stay indoors, take precautions and contact the nearest medical centre if we see any symptoms.
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