COVID-19: What Is Community Transmission? Has It Affected India Yet?

Neha Ghosh
·4-min read

Till date, the total confirmed coronavirus cases have risen to 786,228 and the death toll has gone up to 37, 820 globally. And in India, 1117 people have been tested positive for COVID-19 and the death toll mounts to 32 so far.

The concerned authorities in many Indian states are trying to figure out how individuals with no foreign-travel history or no close contact with a coronavirus patient have contracted the disease. This has led to several experts claiming that India has entered the third stage of the disease.

An example of such cases reported from India is a 29-year-old rail employee in Bihar, a 57-year-old man in West Bengal, a 60-year-old bank officer in Odisha and a young political leader in Kerala. In none of these cases were the authorities able to trace the exact source of the virus.

Could these cases be an indication that India has entered the third stage, which is community transmission?

What Is Community Transmission?

The third stage of a global pandemic is community transmission. At this stage, the disease spreads in the population that are not exposed to the virus. This means they have not been directly exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 individual or haven't travelled from a country that is currently battling the coronavirus outbreak.

The situation is concerning because the exact source of the virus is unknown, which makes it difficult even more for the health officials to trace, isolate and treat patients. As a result, these undiagnosed cases start infecting others, which can be later difficult to control.

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According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there are four stages of the pandemic.

  • Stage 1 - In the first stage, the disease doesn't spread locally, which means people who have had a foreign-travel history to an already affected country.

  • Stage 2- This is the local transmission stage. The people who have contracted the virus and travelled to another country and the virus gets transmitted to other people, usually family and friends. In stage two, it is very easy to trace the source and quarantine affected people.

  • Stage 3 - At this stage, the source of the infection is untraceable and once it spreads it's difficult to control. People who are infected don't have any travel history and haven't come in close contact with a confirmed coronavirus person.

  • Stage 4 - At this stage, the spreading of the virus is uncontrollable and the clusters of infection start developing in a country. An example of this stage so far is China.

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Example Of Cases Of Community Transmission In India

A 57-year-old man in West Bengal was tested positive for coronavirus. He had no history of travelling abroad. He was admitted in the ICU because his symptoms later started intensifying, but he later died due to the virus.

Another similar case was reported in Bihar, a 29-year-old junior railway employee who reached Patna by train from Gujarat got infected. The health officials are now struggling to trace the source of infection.
In Odisha, a 60-year-old man with no recent foreign-travel history was tested positive on 26 March. Another such case is a young political leader in Kerala who neither travelled outside the state after the pandemic outbreak nor came in contact with any coronavirus infected individual.
Similarly, many such cases have emerged in other states of India with no contact history or travel history.

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What Do The Experts Say?

Although the government has not made it clear whether India has entered stage three or not, a report by the Centers for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP), a public health research group based in Washington D.C and Delhi shows a different picture.
They have shared some insights, which revealed the following:

  • Community transmission of coronavirus in India most likely started in early March.

  • State or local containment and mitigation is the best option in India.

  • At baseline (without interventions), between 300 and 400 million Indians are likely to get infected by July, however, most of them will be mild cases.

  • Somewhere between April and May 2020, 100 million individuals in India will be infected.

  • Testing for suspected COVID-19 cases is essential, especially for the elderly and the under-five population to prevent local transmission.

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To Conclude...

All that we can say now is to social distance as much as possible and get yourself checked immediately if you notice any symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat. If you have been tested positive with coronavirus, self-isolate to protect others from contracting the virus.

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