With an increase in cases, contact tracing becomes a difficult exercise

The average number of contacts traced per patient is halved in a week; Ministry of Health increases number of field workers for process

With an increase in COVID-19 cases, authorities are struggling to keep pace with contact tracing. Although the total number of contacts traced last week (January 1-7, 2022) is almost seven times higher than contacts traced the week before (December 25-31, 2021), the average number of contacts traced per patient is reduced. half.

While 14,948 primary contacts were traced during the week ending December 31 with 3.75 contacts per patient, 72,812 primary contacts were traced during the week ending January 7 with 2.22 contacts per patient. patient.

The same tendency is found in the case of secondary contacts. While 10,915 secondary contacts were traced during the week ending December 31 with 2.74 contacts per patient, 51,668 secondary contacts were traced during the week ending January 7 with 1.57 contacts per patient. patient.

District-level analysis of primary contacts per patient over the seven days to January 7 shows that Udupi reported the highest number of primary contacts, with an average of 18.34 per patient. While Yadgir and Chickballapur have an average of 12.11 and 10.61 primary contacts per patient respectively, Chamarajanagar, Davangere and Raichur have an average of 9.71, 8.33 and 7.88 primary contacts per patient, respectively, according to data from the State War Room.

Bengaluru Urban, which reports the most positive cases in the state, has an average of 1.47 primary contacts per patient, the lowest after Ballari where 1.1 contacts per patient were found.

However, KV Trilok Chandra, BBMP (Health) special commissioner, said contact tracing was being carried out aggressively in Bengaluru. “There could be a data mismatch due to which the number of contacts traced per patient is low in Bengaluru. Weekly testing has increased dramatically in Bengaluru and most of those tested are contacts, ”he said.

D. Randeep, state health commissioner, said that while the average number of contacts per patient may be low, the total number of contacts found is more due to the number of positive cases. “Now we are focusing on finding and testing primary contacts because transmission of the Omicron variant is high and the central family is usually infected. In addition, several main contacts arrive on their own and are tested. Of the secondary contacts, we only test those that are symptomatic, ”he said.

Admitting that tracing 20 contacts per patient, which is the ideal number, will not be possible now, the commissioner said the department is working to increase the number of field staff for contact tracing. “For now, BBMP and Home Guards health teams are involved in the exercise in Bengaluru. We are planning to deploy education staff as schools are now closed. We have also written to the Ministry of Education in this regard, ”he said.

Affirming the importance of contact tracing, CN Manjunath, nodal lab and testing manager on the state’s COVID-19 task force, said breaking the chain of transmission was vital. “Identifying contacts and the vulnerable population, including those with co-morbidities, ILI and SARI, is what is needed at this point where the virus is spreading widely,” he said.

Stressing that the manpower needed for this important exercise should be doubled, the doctor said contact tracing was very difficult at this point in the pandemic.

During the first wave, Karnataka had gained appreciation from the Center for its robust contact tracing efforts in the first few months, when an average of 47 contacts per patient was searched.