Forty people out of a total of 104 coronavirus patients with a severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) were found to have contracted the infection without having any recent international travel history. The patients do not even have contact with any confirmed cases of the disease, according to a study by apex medical research body ICMR.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) came out with the findings after carrying out random coronavirus tests on 5,911 people suffering from SARI in 52 districts in 20 states and Union Territories between February 15 to April 2.
Out of the total sample size, 104 people (1.8 percent) were found to have contracted coronavirus. Of the 104, 40 of them did not have any recent international travel history or contact with any positive case of the infection, the study by the nodal medical research body said.
The chances of a SARI patient getting infected with COVID19 has increased from zero percent before March 14 to 2.6 percent by April 2, the study released on Thursday said.
SARI is an acute respiratory condition in which a patient may develop complications of pneumonia or respiratory failure.
The World Health Organisation last month released a set of detailed guidelines on ways to treat SARI patients who have contracted the coronavirus.
As per present evidence, only two to three percent of SARI cases may test positive for COVID-19, said an expert.
The ICMR study was conducted to examine whether the coronavirus outbreak in the country had reached the community transmission stage.
"In all, 39.2 percent COVID-19 cases did not report any history of contact with a known case or international travel," the study said.
Two percent reported contacts with a confirmed case and one percent had a history of international travel, according to it.
The study said males accounted for higher number of COVID-19 cases and also patients aged above 50 years.
The ICMR in its study highlighted that COVID-19 containment activities need to be targeted in districts reporting positive cases among SARI patients.
It said intensifying surveillance for COVID-19 among SARI patients may be an efficient tool to effectively use resources towards containment and mitigation efforts.
In India, the initial COVID-19 testing strategy included people who had international travel history with symptoms, symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients and symptomatic healthcare workers.
In addition, to track the progression of the epidemic in the early phase, stored samples of SARI patients hospitalised since February 15 were also tested for COVID-19 under the Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory Network (VRDLN).