Newspaper reports and Government presenting misleading and exaggerated COVID findings

A report suggests “6.42% positivity” in Delhi among 57 lakh people surveyed. Actually, Just around 13 thousand were found with fever or low Oxygen level, both caused by other conditions also.

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Suranya Aiyar

A report in a premier Delhi newspaper on Thursday, starting with the headline, gives the impression that out of 57 lakh persons surveyed in Delhi (that's about a quarter of Delhi's population), 13,000+ have COVID. The print version of this report adds a top-heading in red, bold and capitals saying: "6.42% positivity rate", giving the impression that this is the percentage of Delhiites hit by COVID.

Once you read the fine print, this turns out to be misleading and, in some places, wrong.

The 13,000+ "symptomatics" are not people with COVID. The report says that "the cumulative number of persons who tested positive are 1,178". The surveyors were sent out with "thermal guns and oximeters to identify symptomatic people".

So, basically, what you have here is that of the 57 lakh people screened, 13,000 plus were found to have a fever (we don't know how high - could be just above normal) and/or low oxygen levels, presumably below 92 saturation, which is the threshold for COVID concerns, but which can go down to those levels for any number of non-COVID conditions as well. What this really means is that 0.23% of those surveyed had a fever or some illness.

Now you may ask (though the newspaper reporters did not think of asking) how many of those with fever have Covid-19?

The report says that of the 13,000+ symptomatic, 11,790 were tested. In addition, of 8413 contacts of the so-called symptomatic, 6546 were tested. So, in all about 84% of those with fever and their contacts have been tested, and of these 1178 gave a COVID-positive test. It is from here that you get the so-called positivity rate of about 6%.

So basically, of those having fever, about 6% are turning out to be COVID patients, NOT 6.4% of all Delhiites as the report implies.

If we apply the 6.42% positive test rate of symptomatic to all the 13,000+ with fever, that gives us a total of 1409 COVID patients out of 57 lakh plus surveyed, which gives us a COVID positive rate of .02% among those surveyed. So whereas this report says 6.42% positivity, the DATA ACTUALLY SHOWS .02% COVID POSITIVES in a survey of 57 lakh plus.

As the survey was confined to COVID hotspots and containment zones in Delhi, the actual percentage for the whole city will be lower than .02%.

Even if you assume that all the symptomatic will later be found to be COVID positive, or if you assume all the negative tests were false negatives, you get only 0.23% COVID cases among the 57 lakh people surveyed.

The report does not say how many of these cases are severe. But if we assume the general understanding of 20% being serious, then we have 281 serious cases which come to 0.005% of the 57 lakh plus surveyed.

So, firstly, you should be asking why we are allowing the news media, which seems incapable of doing basic arithmetic, to direct your understanding of this disease.

Secondly, please compare these rates of serious COVID illness to other diseases like tuberculosis, infant diarrhoeal disease, heart disease, and cancer, and ask yourself why we are focusing all this time, money, and man-power on COVID.

We are now nearly 3/4 of a year into the Covid epidemic and we have seen that no amount of testing or contact tracing is stopping the disease from spreading. Instead of wasting resources on this, should we not instead have a change of strategy where the focus is on treatment and medication, and subsidising those, - most of which if given early at home under teleconsultation with a Covid doctor can actually help patients to fully recover.

SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE IF YOU GET OR SUSPECT YOU MIGHT HAVE COVID

All the talk of hospital beds and ventilators for Covid has been misleading as it gives the impression that these are the key to recovering from this disease.

In fact, what you need to do if you get COVID is to avoid hospitalisation and certainly avoid getting to a stage where you might need a ventilator. Contrary to the impression being given in the news by under-researched reporters who were misled by early epidemiological reports on this disease which relied heavily on ventilator-data in their analysis, there are medicines and treatments that if taken at the right time can help you recover without hospitalisation, and to avoid ventilation if you are hospitalised.

If you feel Covid or flu-like symptoms or indigestion with fever coming on, consult a Covid doctor by phone and start on anti-virals.

Do not wait to be breathless or seriously ill before starting treatment. Do not even wait to develop a fever if you have a Covid positive test or have been in close contact with a Covid patient.

Medicines for early-stage Covid are cheap and available over the counter at any chemist.

MEDICATE MILD COVID SHOULD BE THE MANTRA.

There seems to be a lack of understanding on the pattern of this disease - often you will have a mild fever that even goes to normal for a couple of days before you are hit with a sudden spike of the second round of high fever, fluid build-up around the lungs and so on.

It is this second phase that is dangerous and needs strong medication to be controlled. As a mild Covid patient you need to keep getting blood and oxygen levels tested to make sure you are not entering the second phase and to take medicines as soon as the tests start showing indications of the second phase coming on.

Some doctors and hospitals are waiting too long before prescribing medicines like steroids and blood thinners for the patients who are bordering on the second phase.

You need to find doctors who are more inclined to intervene than those who are not, and to talk to them about medicines like ivermectin, azithromycin, doxycycline, Fabiflu, remedisivir and steroids like Medrol/solumedrol. Plasma therapy is good in theory, but the right type of plasma is not easily available and it is better for you to chase up medication.

Here is the link to the newspaper report which provoked this comment:

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/5-day-survey-of-57-lakh-delhiites-covered-13516-show-symptoms-7068017/

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