With a leaping 14,40,371 positive Coronaviru
s cases in India and the Covid-19 curve steadily going upwards every day, it is time for us to focus on the aspect of the community spread of this virus. Although there has been no official record of community transmission yet, it is essential for us to be aware of it, how it can take place and the ways of preventing it. As otherwise, the impact of community spread in a country like India with the world's largest population could be extremely adverse and uncontrollable.
What is Community Transmission?
While we have spent considerable time in complete nationwide lockdown and followed advisories and are now living in the phase of a relaxed lockdown with a stringent lockdown in only the widely affected areas, we are not yet in terms of community transmission. It refers to the condition when the virus gets transmitted without anyone knowing the definite source of infection. In cases of highly transmissive diseases like Covid-19, one may contract the virus from people around, maybe at the workplace or while shopping in a mall or in any other public place. What makes it more concerning is that in such cases, one may contract the virus people who probably are themselves not sure whether they are Coronavirus positive or not and think they do not have it.
Till now in India, a Covid positive person has been linked with travel history to a country where the disease is widespread or the person's contact with someone who is known to be already infected. A community transmission happens when the source of transmission for a large number of people is not traceable. Community transmission was common in most types of influenza and bird flu outbreaks in the past.
What makes community transmission of Covid-19 a major concern?
Even if one does not travel to a hotspot for Covid-19 or does not come in contact with someone who is already infected, still there are chances for them to get the virus, all thanks to community transmission that has become worrisome for the doctors. Contact tracing has been the most common practice to tackle the spread in India. It involves meticulous monitoring of each individual who has come in contact with someone who has been detected to have Coronavirus. In India, contact tracing has been followed with each new case of Coronavirus detection.
However, in the case of community transmission, contact tracing will no longer work efficiently and will become inadequate. Why? Because the risk of getting affected with Coronavirus increases for everyone, irrespective of whether they have traveled to affected countries or have come in touch with an already infected person. In such a situation, the health officials will not be able to detect the source of the virus and the virus will get to spread like wildfire, making it impossible for the existing infrastructure and doctors to tackle the crisis. This is why India must be prepared to prevent the massive community spread of the highly infectious virus.
Community spread: asymptomatic Covid-19 patients may become the worst source of transmission
Coronavirus may be initially asymptomatic and that may make the community spread worse. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine clearly points out that asymptomatic carriers may become silent super-spreaders of the deadly virus that appears to spread easily among those in close contact, within 2 meters through droplets released while coughing, sneezing or talking. Community spread can also happen when a person touches a surface with the virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.
Tips to curb community spread
While the lockdown has relaxed and railways and airlines have begun passenger services, it is crucial for us to take certain measures to avoid community spread of coronavirus.
- Stay away from close contact with anyone. Maintain at least three feet distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing
- Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth
- Stay home
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth when you sneeze and dispose of the tissue safely
- Wear mask, gloves and other protective gears whenever you step out
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and things brought from outside.
- Wash your hands frequently when you step out or use a sanitiser. Wash your hands before you eat.
- If you have fever, cough and breathing difficulty, seek immediate medical help
- Avoid going out to crowded places, parties, large gatherings
- Try to avoid traveling. Keep in mind the travel advisory in case you have to travel due to an emergency