New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said almost 80 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in India are asymptomatic or at best with very mild symptoms.
In an exclusive interview to IANS, the Health Minister said, "Even today, in almost 80 per cent of the cases of COVID-19, which are being reported in India, the patients tend to exhibit either nil or mild symptoms. These patients are mostly contacts of confirmed cases. Interestingly, had it not been for our contact tracing efforts, and if left to their own in isolation, these patients may not have even remembered or reported their infection."
Harsh Vardhan, who has recently been elected the chief of WHO's Executive Board, was answering a query on whether asymptomatic patients who are potential virus carriers and who can take the virus deeper into rural India are causing worry to the government.
He said, "I am aware about WHO's mention of some laboratory-confirmed cases that are truly asymptomatic. It is equally true, that as on date, there has been no documented asymptomatic transmission."
However, he added that recently, more symptoms like headache, muscle pain, pink eye, loss of smell, or loss of taste, intense chills, rigors and sore throat have been included in the list of COVID-19 symptoms by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States. "It will require more studies before these symptoms are finally included in our list in India," he quipped.
He added that the new symptoms were very subjective and vague which might go unnoticed, might not be remembered by the patient and, thus, might even go unreported. "Moreover, if for a moment we talk of testing such asymptotic patients, identification of all these asymptomatic cases will require repeated testing of 1.3 billion population which is a resource expensive exercise for any country and is neither possible nor recommended," the Health Minister said.
He emphasized on priority-based and targeted testing and said that it will be helpful in detecting more cases of COVID-19 and curbing the disease. "With our efforts at sustained and quality assured scaling up of the testing facilities, I am sure, we shall be better placed for maximum case detection," he concluded.