Guyana: Screening expanded to detect asymptomatic COVID-19 cases

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The Guyana Chronicle

THE Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease, which has been labelled the “silent killer,” has proven to be more ‘silent’ than expected, as persons are contracting the disease, but remain asymptomatic- meaning they show no sign or symptom of the disease.

Considering the trend of asymptomatic cases, the Ministry of Public Health has ramped up its screening efforts in order to detect persons, who are asymptomatic.
Director of Regional and Clinical Services (RHS), Dr. Kay Shako, said the ministry has “cast its net” wider in order to catch symptomless patients, who are carriers of the highly-infectious and deadly COVID-19 disease.

Public health authorities had estimated that about 40 per cent of Guyanese COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic.
“Since we have that high number of asymptomatic persons in our communities, we have expanded our screening to know all those persons who are COVID-19 positive,” said Dr. Shako.

The rationale for broadening the groups of persons to be tested for the pandemic emerged out of growing concern that the previous guideline focused too narrowly on those persons, who show physical signs and symptoms of the ailment and others, who were in close physical proximity to them.

Contact tracing is the jargon used by public health specialists to track persons, who were physically close to COVID-19 positive patients. By tuning out asymptomatic persons, the country ran the “real danger” of the deadly virus spreading rapidly nationwide.

To diversify the range of persons to be tested, Resident Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow, counselled local public health officials to also set their sight on frontline healthcare workers, persons with influenza-like conditions and those with pneumonia.

As a consequence, “our figures will definitely rise,” Shako said explaining one of the outcomes of the MoPH’s expanded vision. To date, 852 persons have been tested for the disease, with 97 declared positive.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, in Friday’s COVID-19 Update live broadcast, said 49 new persons were tested; deaths remained at 10 and that children constitute 5.4 per cent, adults 82 per cent and the elderly 12.6 per cent of all positive cases so far.

CMO Persaud also complimented the 35 persons who fully recovered from the deadly virus and the 692 who tested negative.
He said in Friday’s edition of the update that three patients are still hospitalised in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the tertiary level care Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), while a further three are in “our institutional quarantine and 49 in isolation”.

Outside of Demerara/Mahaica (Region Four), the per cent of readiness and preparedness to combat COVID-19 is calculated at 87 per cent, Shako said.
She said isolation and quarantine units in the outlying regions are almost completed thus helping public health decision-makers to zero in more intently on the 21 elderly homes scattered around the country because the occupants are extremely vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, 15 of which are managed by the government.

Dr. Melissa De Haarte, Coordinator of Elderly Health at the Public Health Ministry, confirmed on Saturday that there are currently no new admissions in elderly homes. “All homes are on lockdown…an elderly person needing to be admitted…must be screened and cleared before,” DeHaarte, who holds a MBBS and MPH-Gerontology, said.

The State is upgrading all 15 of the 21 elderly homes under its care in the COVID-19 fight Dr. Shako said. She said the remaining six NGO-operated homes will be closely monitored to ensure compliance with newly-establish protocols to help stem the spread of the mutating virus.

In addition, the Public Health Ministry is also paying special attention to pregnant women throughout the country and is putting special facilities in place to cater for them. This move has enabled one COVID-19 positive mother to be begin receiving treatment, Dr. Shako said.

She said Regional authorities in Mahaica/Berbice (Region Five) and East Berbice/Corentyne (Region Six) have established check points at strategic locations to ensure all persons entering those areas are screened to help prevent any infected person spreading the disease in those two predominantly agricultural areas, Shako explained.

Since the broader net has been cast, three persons were sent to the New Amsterdam Hospital “for further evaluation,” the RHS Director disclosed.

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