Without symptoms, patients doubt diagnosis

Asymptomatic Covid-19 patients continue to disregard positive lab reports, flout precautions

Sameer Mandhro May 06, 2020
A Reuters representational image.

KARACHI: Over 8,000 people in Sindh have been attacked by an enemy that is invisible and invincible. Some of them it suffocates to death, while for most, it causes no apparent harm, deceiving them into believing that they are fit and healthy, at no risk themselves nor posing any threat to others.

For them, even positive laboratory test results are not proof enough that they have been infected, making it difficult for health officials to convince them to follow the necessary precautions.

According to health department records, over 82 per cent people who have tested positive for the coronavirus have been home-isolated, “as they have no complaints [and] feel as healthy as a normal person would.”

Showing no symptoms at all, not even a slight fever, “there is no need for them to shift to a hospital or an isolation centre,” a health department official explained, while talking to The Express Tribune.

In line with health department records, he said that around 80 per cent infected persons didn’t show any symptoms or develop any kind of illness in Sindh, while only 20 per cent patients developed fever and cough, and just five per cent became critically ill. And even then, two per cent among the critically ill recovered, he added.

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However, these figures, though somewhat relieving, explain why so many have been paying no heed to health authorities’ warnings and requests, continuing to believe that they were not infected , despite testing positive.

“Common people call it [the Covid-19 diagnosis] a drama but laboratory test results tell otherwise,” the official observed, citing the examples of Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani and Sindh governor Imran Ismail, both of whom showed no symptoms but tested positive for the coronavirus.

This was apparent when Muahmmad Ramazan from Tando Muhammad Khan, saying that some people from his city had initially tested positive last week but were later cleared of the infection, questioned, “Don’t you feel it is a drama?”

Ramazan is unable to fathom how infected persons can recover so soon.

Similarly, another health official, whose family members had tested positive for the coronavirus, shared a similar observation with The Express Tribune. “Their condition is so normal that they do not believe they are infected,” he said. “They feel good and sleep and eat like any other healthy person.”

According to health officials, with no apparent illness, people find it hard to trust laboratory results.

“For example, of 135 people tested from Ghotki, 116 were found infected and then, those who tested positive questioned the results.” They believed the government was fudging numbers, he added.

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However, he added that if anyone found it hard to trust the results of tests conducted by the government, they could visit a private facility, such as the Indus Hospital or Aga Khan University Hospital, of their choice and get themselves screened again.

“No one can deny them this right,” he clarified.

But then, there are some like A*, a resident of Karachi’s West district, who admits that it is hard for him to believe that he has tested positive but understands that it is better to rely on laboratory test results.

“I feel completely normal and it is a bit strange, but I have to trust test results,” he asserted.

A* is one among a few who understand the gravity of the situation, because they are well aware of what is happening around the world, explained a health department official.

“Not all will die and not all will survive,” he reflected. “But the need is to focus on saving those few who could be at risk after becoming critically ill.”

The objective, though, can only be achieved if people realise the seriousness of the situation, which has been lost on many so far.

*Initial used to protect identity

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