Rapid antibody tests for anyone showing flu-like symptoms at hotspots: ICMR


With a sudden spurt in new positive cases due to a religious gathering in New Delhi, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has decided to allow rapid antibody testing for all symptomatic individuals in covid-19 hotspots in the country.

In its latest guidelines issued on Saturday, the medical research body said rapid antibody tests would have to be undertaken in all areas reporting clusters of covid-19 cases. According to the ICMR, every confirmed case is an epicentre and people living within a 3 km radius of the location fall in the containment zones. This could vary depending on the mapping of contacts of the infected.

The decision comes after over 1,000 new confirmed cases were found to be linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering that was held in New Delhi in mid-March. As on Saturday, at least 30% of the total 2,900 cases in India are linked to the gathering.

The ICMR said the district health authorities would be required to monitor all people showing influenza-like symptoms, including cough, cold, low grade fever or sore throat, and each of them would be advised 14 days home quarantine.

Anyone showing these mild symptoms will have to be tested using the rapid antibody testing kits, which have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), EU-CEA or National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, and allowed for marketing by the Drug Controller General of India.

If the antibody test result is positive, the patient must be admitted in hospital for further monitoring and treatment and contact tracing has to be started immediately.

However, if the test result is negative in the symptomatic individual, then Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test, which has been mandated by the WHO, has to be conducted to ensure the person is not infected. But if the result comes out to be positive, then the patient has to be isolated and admitted in the hospital for further treatment.

In case the RT-PCR cannot be conducted, the person has to be advised home quarantine for ten days and then go for another antibody test after the period. If home quarantine is not feasible, the authorities may consider facility based quarantine.

In the event of symptoms worsening for any of the patients under examination, the health authorities must shift then to the nearest designated covid-19 hospitals.

Any sudden surge in cases must be brought to the notice of the Surveillance Officer for immediate action.

All results are required to be uploaded on the ICMR portal in real time. Any failure to do so will lead to action under Disaster Management Act, 2005.

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