Opinion: Covid Testing

As a practicing doctor and someone who is dealing and counselling a lot of covid positive cases, I have a few observations.

According to the WHO report, COVID-19 data suggests that 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infections requiring oxygen and 5% are critical infections, requiring ventilation.

I must agree, that I am only treating the 80% who are mild or asymptomatic and very few who are in the 15%. My question is, do we focus on the 80-95% of the people who will anyways recover without medication or on the 5% whose life is at threat?

As of today, there could be millions in our country who could be covid positive but they have no symptoms so they do not know they are positive. They, within a couple of weeks, without knowing, become negative. These asymptomatic carriers would be already in lakhs amongst us and spreading the virus.

ICMR, which has approved for COVID-19 tests, say that the RT-PCR test can only detect 65 out of 100 positive patients because it has its own limitations. A whole gamut of factors decides the accuracy of the test. Rampant testing of the virus would have helped in the beginning of the pandemic to know the source and contain the source. Now we have passed that stage where it can be done. The only thing that testing can cause now, is fear and panic.

It is extremely rare that some serious damage is happening inside the body and you do not get to know about it. Most of the time the indication that anything is wrong in the body is the symptom that the body exhibits. The minutest damage that happens in the body will be conveyed to the outside through a symptom. So, if the lung is affected, the person surely will have cough or breathlessness. If kidneys are affected, there will be frothy urine or swelling of the body or at least there would be a rise in temperature. If most people are asymptomatic, that only means the body's immunity is dealing with the virus without letting it affect any part of the body; which is a good thing and we should let it deal with it.

Instead, if you test it and become positive, then

  • 1)The first thing that you experience is fear and panic. When you panic you breathe shallow that causes CO2 load on the lungs. We need to understand here that our immune system is dealing with it as best as it can. During this time, if you load your lungs with CO2, the lungs become weak and it will become a target organ for the virus. The immune system cannot do anything & the chances of a lung involvement is higher.
  • 2)In their anxiety, most people who test positive, start off on the chloroquine/antiviral or an antibiotic. A lot of them may take all the 3 together too. On any given day, if you take just an antibiotic, don't you feel weak? Just imagine, when you take all these medicines, you are further weakening your immune system. While on the other hand, your natural immunity is trying to protect you. You are only damaging yourself instead of protecting.
  • 3)Most people today are getting themselves admitted to hospitals when they are positive, even though they are asymptomatic. As it is your immune system is fighting a deadly virus and trying to protect you, but if you go and admit yourself in an environment filled with more virus and bacteria, it not only has to protect you from the virus but also the bacteria that can cause secondary infections. Not even mentioning the psychological trauma of being in isolation surrounded by covid positive patients with different complications.

I strongly believe that, if we can focus on the 80% who are asymptomatic, we can effectively deal with the 20% mild and moderate covid positive patients. The testing should be done only for the symptomatic patients.

The WHO and the governments must assure the people, loud & clear, that it is ok to get covid and 80-95% of people will recover. Also, tell them that it's absolutely fine for people who are asymptomatic, which means their immune system is good and capable of handling the virus on its own. There is no need to do any kind of intervention in asymptomatic patients.

Once we calm down the majority of the population, the rest can be dealt with, more easily & efficiently.

-Dr.Manoj Kuriakose