India’s top scientists say only those with weak immunity show COVID-19 symptoms — and 80% are hence unaware

There is something more alarming than the growing number of COVID-19 cases in India. According to two of India’s top scientists, few are aware that they are infected, and symptoms do not give away much.

Most of the novel coronavirus cases in India (80%) are asymptomatic cases, reported NDTV citing Dr Gangakhedkar, a senior ICMR scientist. “Our biggest worry is their detection. There is no other way than contact tracing,” said Gangakhedkar.

An asymptomatic case is where an infected patient does not show any symptoms.

‘Only those with weak immunity show symptoms’
According to Prof Nirmal Kumar Ganguly, former director of ICMR, COVID-19 virus is capable of multiplying and quickly spreading once it enters the cell. Moreover, it can remain active in the air for 3 to 4 hours.

“Only those who have a weak immune system start showing symptoms -- cough, cold, fever, acute pneumonia resulting in respiratory issues – within 5-14 days of coming in contact with the virus. A severe case of COVID-19 results in septicemia -- shock resulting in death,” said Ganguly.

The observation comes a day after the Health Ministry said the number of asymptomatic people testing positive is “not very high”.

“Asymptomatic people actually coming out positive is not a very big percentage, that is what the historical data from across the world has shown us. So what is important for us is to be aware of this challenge and ensure that even asymptomatic people if they are high risk, that is part of our sampling criteria. We need to monitor them, do tests and quarantine them,” said Lav Agrawal, spokesperson, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

India reported 1,553 fresh cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases to 17,265, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, 14,175 are active cases while 2,546 have recovered. As many as 543 people have died due to COVID-19 disease in India.

Delhi and Maharashtra struggle with asymptomatic patients
According to media reports, 75% of total coronavirus cases in Punjab, 50% in Karnataka, 70% in Maharashtra and 75% in Uttar Pradesh were asymptomatic.

Previously, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray said 70-75% of the novel coronavirus patients in the state were unaware that they were infected. Maharashtra is the worst-hit state with 4203 cases of Coronavirus which killed 223 people.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal too confirmed that about 186 coronavirus cases reported in the national capital on April 18 were asymptomatic.

According to Dr Karan Peepre, Medical Superintendent, AIIMS, Raipur, asymptomatic cases can be dealt with quick identification and isolation. Whereas, Uttar Pradesh health secretary Amit Mohan Prasad believes identifying hotspots will help in preventing the spread of coronavirus by asymptomatic patients.

‘Without a vaccine, it might take 2 years to control Covid-19’
Experts believe identifying patients who show no symptoms is a difficult task without large scale testing. “Testing in India is inadequate and lacks quality control measures. Hence the actual number of cases could be higher,” said Dr Ganguly.

Testing remains a challenge for the second most populated country in the world with 1.3 billion people. India is unable to test each and every individual like New Zealand or South Korea.

At first, India tested only those who had travelled to a foreign country or have come in contact with those who tested positive. However, asymptomatic cases might soon increase as the government recently introduced rapid antibody testing.

With no vaccine in place, it might take 2 years to control the pandemic, added Ganguly

See also: Manipur and Goa declared Coronavirus-free as all patients recover