81 per cent COVID patients in Nepal asymptomatic

Kathmandu, April 20

About 81 per cent of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals across Nepal are asymptomatic, according to doctors.

Nepal has so far detected 31 patients infected with the novel coronavirus. Four of them have since recovered. According to the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, of the remaining 27 patients, three have fever and two others have cough. The division didn’t disclose names of hospitals where patients with symptoms were undergoing treatment. Even these symptoms are mild and not worrisome, according to the EDCD.

COVID patients may or may not show symptoms and signs of the disease depending on the amount of virus that has entered the body, immunity and age of the person. In Nepal, only six out of 27 patients infected with coronavirus disease are above 50, with an 81-year-old female being the eldest.

But even the 81-year-old woman had not shown any symptom of infection when she was admitted to the hospital, her daughter in-law had said a few days ago. A 65-year-old female from Baglung, who was recently discharged from the hospital following recovery from the disease, too had not shown symptoms of the infection despite being a patient of asthma and hypertension.

“Coronavirus patients may not show symptoms because of eating habit and immunity. But we need to do a proper research on it,” said Jagadish Joshi, specialist emergency physician and spokesperson for Seti Provincial Hospital.

Doctors like Joshi, however, consider asymptomatic coronavirus patients a bigger threat to the society. “These people may develop symptoms much later or may not develop any symptom at all. But despite being asymptomatic they can transmit the disease to others because of presence of virus inside the body,” said Joshi.

Some of the COVID-19 patients show signs of the disease within 14 days and some develop symptoms after 21 days or even later. Older people and those with underlying medical problems, such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. But some may not show any symptom at all.

For example, all of the 13 COVID-19 patients admitted to coronavirus special hospital in Biratnagar last week have not developed any symptom so far.

“When infected people don’t show symptoms, others around them are unlikely to take precautions,” said EDCD Director Basudev Pandey.

“This is the reason why more tests should be conducted so that those infected could be identified and isolated,” said Madan Kumar Upadhayaya, medical superintendent at Narayani Sub-regional Hospital.

Doctors like Upadhayaya and Pandey are of the view that tests should be ramped up in hotspots such as Udayapur, Birgunj and Sudurpaschim Province, where more COVID-19 cases have been detected.

As of today, the government has conducted 8,414 polymerase chain reaction tests and 25,148 rapid diagnostic tests.

“It is recommended that people who have undergone rapid diagnostic tests be made to take polymerase chain reaction tests, as results of rapid tests can be inaccurate and thus misleading,” said Anup Subidee, consultant infectious disease and physician at HAMS Hospital.

A version of this article appears in print on April 21, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.