A year after contracting Covid-19, India’s first patient is more worried about pursuing her studies while health professionals – who managed her condition – vividly recollect their struggles. She was pursuing MBBS at a college in Wuhan, the epicentre of Covid-19 outbreak in China. She tested positive on January 30, 2020 when she arrived home.
Now, she is unsure about returning to her college as the Covid threat continues. “She is attending a coaching programme in Thrissur to make up for her lost academic days. She now views her Covid infection as a minor chapter in life, though at that point all of us were worried. She doesn’t want to talk to anyone about it,” said her father. District medical officer Dr KJ Reena reminisced how she came to the district hospital with slight fever, throat pain and was admitted for treatment.
“We were anticipating cases as many students from Thrissur were studying in China and most of them were likely to return given the winter holidays then. We had put in a place a programme to track returnees particularly those from China, from late December and early January. Somehow, we had a feeling that the first case in Kerala could be from Thrissur. We were a bit surprised when it became the first in India,” she said.
“An aggressive testing programme was followed then and of the first 100 samples sent for testing from Kerala; 70 were from Thrissur. Elaborate sensitisation and training was given to officials and the public about the disease. The girl’s sample was sent for testing to National Institute of Virology, Pune by air through an agency in Kochi. We were sending samples usually by train earlier,” Dr Reena said.
“The health minister, principal secretary (health) and several others reminded us the entire nation were watching us. We were conscious and provided her the best care. She was shifted to the medical college. She was probably the most-tested patient and had to spend many days in the hospital as protocols were different then,” the DMO said.
There were three other students who returned from China to Thrissur and all of them tested negative. Her classmate from Alappuzha and another person from Kasaragod, who were in the same flight had tested positive,” recalled Dr Reena.
Though there were only 13 cases from Thrissur in phase-I, the spike started in May and cases rose to 1,200 in some days in October. The test positivity rate went over 20 later; now it hovers around eight. “I feel the numbers may not scale those peaks again, but we have to be vigilant,” she said.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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