Is Sikkim’s Asymptomatic Cases a Boon or a Bane?

Is Sikkim’s Asymptomatic Cases a Boon or a Bane?

All the active COVID-19 positive cases in Sikkim have turned out to be asymptomatic, informed Dr Pemba T Bhutia, Director General cum Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Sikkim. A study by Annals of Internal Medicine published on June 3rd hinted at the possibility of asymptomatic infected people being super spreaders of the coronavirus.

The study suggested that there was a 40-45 percentile of people infected by the disease to turn out asymptomatic, which suggested that there might be a greater threat of potential silent spread through these people.

Sikkim has already seen the recovery of the two patients who actually developed the symptoms and they have now been discharged as healthy individuals. The study conducted at the Scripps Research Translation Institute highlights the fact that asymptomatic patients can transmit the contagion to others for an extended period of time, perhaps even longer than 14 days.

“The absence of coronavirus symptoms in an infected person might not necessarily be the absence of harm,” the study suggested. The study that reviewed data from 16 different groups of COVID-19 patients suggests a worrisome detail that people who don’t look or feel sick are more likely to have interactions that might lead to transmissions.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, head of World health Organisation’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, informed in a news briefing from the UN’s Geneva Headquarters, that it was found out that asymptomatic people transmitting the disease to a second individual was very rare.

Suggesting that government responses should focus on detecting and isolating infected people with symptoms and tracing everyone who came into contact with them, Kerkhove implied that while asymptomatic cases may occur, it is not a pertinent way of the virus being transmitted.

Sikkim already has established that all the cases right now are asymptomatic and that gives a breathing space and also a space to hyperventilate, depending on the mind-set of the person. The people who have been asymptomatic might have spawned other asymptomatic cases that might have not been traced or might have gone under the radar of the tracing work that has been underway, is a worry that many Sikkimese people have thought of. 

The worry, which is mostly speculation, is real however far-fetched the fear of it might be. Dr Bhutia spoke to Sikkim Chronicle on the same and informed that the contact tracing is being done vigorously without missing a person.

“There are no symptomatic cases right now and all the cases are asymptomatic,” Dr Bhutia says.

“It is being covered in all the bulletins that we broadcast, that every one is being traced and we are doing the testing on each and everyone,” he adds.

Furthermore, Dr Bhutia adds, “This (the contact tracing), is going as the state has planned. Everyone is being kept at the facility quarantine, and after that everyone is being tested and we are doing all that. There are a few people who are sick whose home quarantine is up to the mark, we are sending them to home quarantine.”

Dr Pemba’s bulletin that covers all the issues rather transparently than other states gives all the information of the numbers of people who have been tested, who develop a positive case, who are sent to quarantine facilities (state and paid), and who are sent to home quarantine.

The Secretary informed Sikkim Chronicle that all the contacts have been hitherto traced and tested and the information is given in the bulletin that he broadcasts. The question that now rises is if the state has been wholly efficient on tracing each and everyone or not, which according to Dr. Bhutia is affirmatively on the positive side.

While implied by the WHO that asymptomatic cases are less likely to transmit the disease, Netizens have suggested that the only way of ever being sure if one is maintaining all preventive measures is to treat everyone, regardless of their health status, that one meets as a COVID-19 positive case so one can be utterly sure that they are on the safer side.