Coronavirus Outbreak: ‘No spread yet at community level’

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After testing around 20 patients suffering from atypical pneumonia, an infection of the respiratory system, the authorities yesterday claimed there has so far been no community transmission cases of coronavirus in the country.

It means all the coronavirus patients are either those who travelled from countries badly suffering from the coronavirus pandemic or their relations who came in touch with them, they said.

“We have tested quite 20 cases of primary atypical pneumonia . supported this, we are sure there’s no community transmission,” Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said replying to a question at a press briefing yesterday.

Experts, however, said the amount of patients with primary atypical pneumonia would be much higher which the sample wasn’t capable reach such a conclusion.

They said patients with atypical pneumonia show similar symptoms of coronavirus and any increase in atypical pneumonia cases should be brought under strict surveillance.

The WHO protocol adopted by the WHO-China Joint commission on Covid-19 also suggests that countries with confirmed imported cases need to immediately expand surveillance by testing all patients with primary atypical pneumonia .

At yesterday’s briefing, the IEDCR director also said two new persons were diagnosed with Covid-19, taking the entire number of confirmed coronavirus cases within the country to 10.

One of the 2 patients returned from Italy recently while the opposite contracted the virus from one among his relatives who recently travelled to Bangladesh from the US and left.

Three of the ten have recovered while the others are under treatment, said Prof Flora.She also said the IEDCR tested 326 suspected patients for coronavirus till yesterday. Forty-nine were tested within the last 24 hours till 7:15pm, said an IEDCR handout .

Replying to a question , Flora said they administered the tests on 20 primary atypical pneumonia patients in line with WHO protocol to work out the spread of coronavirus at the country’s community level.

This claim, however, contradicts the WHO protocol itself, experts have acknowledged .To get a clearer picture, they said, the authorities should intensify collection of random samples from people showing flu-like symptoms, albeit they didn’t visit any of the coronavirus-hit countries.

“Testing only 20 samples of primary atypical pneumonia cases isn’t enough to understand the extent of community transmission within the country. Besides, these tests aren’t being done maintaining standard procedures,” Prof Mahmudur Rahman, a former director of IEDCR, told The Daily Star yesterday.

“It isn’t systematic. It seemed the tests were done following a passive method. It should are the active method.”By a lively method, he meant collection of samples during a planned way from primary atypical pneumonia patients from across the country.

According to WHO protocol, there should be more tests of primary atypical pneumonia to understand whether the virus has actually spread to communities, he said.

“Currently, no test is being done if there’s no travel history [of visiting the affected countries],” he said, suggesting randomly testing anyone with symptoms like cough, fever and respiratory difficulties, albeit they haven’t come from abroad or had no direct contact with them.

Currently, 19 hospitals across the country have influenza closed-circuit television where different pneumonia cases, including primary atypical pneumonia , are analysed since 2007.

The Daily Star couldn’t confirm the amount of primary atypical pneumonia cases reported from those hospitals.The National Influenza Cent re at the IEDCR also doesn’t have any updated data, said its sources.

At a news conference in Geneva yesterday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom urged all countries to check all suspected cases for detecting coronavirus.

“We have also seen a rapid escalation in social distancing measures, like closing schools and cancelling sporting events and other gatherings. But we’ve not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and get in touch with tracing – which is that the backbone of the response,” he said.

‘SLACK’ RESPONSE FROM IEDCR HOTLINE
Talking to this correspondent from a particular distance, several people alleged that they weren’t having the ability to contact the IEDCR through its hotline numbers to report any suspected case.

Around noon yesterday, a minimum of 11 people gathered ahead of the IEDCR office.

“I called the 17 hotline numbers for like 90 times, but none picked up my calls. That’s why I’ve come here,” said an educator at a faculty in Mirpur, adding that she needed to verify through test whether she had the virus.

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