Malappuram infant dies of Covid, infection mystery adds to fears

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MALAPPURAM/KOCHI: Kerala on Friday woke up to the tragic death of a four-month-old girl due to Covid-19 — its third pandemic-linked death and the first after a gap of over two weeks. But what has compounded the state’s worry is the failure to track the source of the infant’s infection, and that of a few other recent patients. The child, a native of Payyanad near Manjeri in Malappuram, died at Kozhikode Government Medical College at 6am. The youngest to get infected in the state, she died of cardiac, respiratory and under-growth problems, said Health Minister K K Shailaja. The results of swab samples of her parents, who have been quarantined and put under observation, are awaited.

The health department’s inability to trace the source of transmission in at least three Covid-19 patients, including the infant, has raised concerns at a time when the state seems to have contained the spread of the virus. The other cases include a 67-year-old mentally-ill destitute woman from Tamil Nadu, who tested positive early this week, and a head load worker in Kottayam, who was diagnosed with the infection on Thursday.

In the child’s case, the department is exploring if she got infected at the private hospital in Payyanad where she underwent treatment for breathing problems on April 17. “We can’t confirm community spread now,” said Malappuram DMO K Sakeena. “A woman who cut the child’s hair during a religious ceremony on March 2 died recently. We were told that she died of heart attack. However, her death will be re-investigated,” Sakeena said. “The woman has a history of travelling to the houses of Gulf returnees. So, there is a high chance that she could have transmitted the virus to the child,” she said.

Proper surveillance key
Dr Rajeev Sadanandan, former secretary (Health), said without proper surveillance, it would be impossible to know the exact state of the spread of the virus.“As of now, we don’t have a definite answer to whether or not there is a community spread. There should be a proper surveillance system in place in the state to check community spread. To find any infection, its prevalence surveillance needs to be done. Without adequate testing kits, surveillance can’t be done. Even for SARI (Severe Acute Respiratory Infection) surveillance, the department requires testing kits,” said Dr Sadanandan, who is a part of the 17-member Covid special committee of the state government.

First child victim

  • The four-month-old native of Payyanad in Malappuram, died at Kozhikode MCH at 6am. She died of cardiac, respiratory and under-growth problems, said Health Minister K K Shailaja
  • Results of swab samples of the infant’s parents are awaited
  • The department is checking if the infant got infected at a private hospital at Payyanad where she was treated for breathing problems on April 17
  • A woman who cut the child’s hair during a ceremony on March 2 died recently. Though heart attack is said to be the cause of death, health officials will re-investigate the case

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