Sero-surveillance is the need of the hour
Most of the delegates present in the emergency meeting called for a scientific approach of dealing with the pamdemic as called out by the 'Imphal Free Press' in its opinions.
We are indeed glad that the call for total lockdown has been called off in a meeting of Covid 19 warriors with the Chief Minister N Biren Singh in the chair, along with ministers and MLAs, including of the opposition. As we heard, most of the delegates present in the meeting called for a scientific approach of dealing with the pamdemic as called out by the Imphal Free Press in itsopinions. We had voiced the lack of reliance on scientific data and analysis in mapping the state Covid-19 strategy. Now, the proposal for imposing total lockdown again has been ruled out, as a result of the emergency meeting of the Covid warriors.
While a vaccine or a definite treatment plan is not available to us, experts believe that the only way to prevent further spikes in infections or find out the actual data about exposure levels is to test the presence of antibodies in people. Sero-surveillance is a globally used and trusted standard which measures the levels of antibodies against a certain infection and decodes the percentage of the population which has been previously exposed to the virus. A recent survey from Delhi showed that at least 15-20 per cent of the population had already been exposed, or are immune to the deadly SARS-COV-2 virus. The tool is also used as a measure for officials to check on mass inoculation and see the level of immunity people have. Even before COVID-19, it was used as an extensive tool to see how far an infection has breached in a community. National sero-surveillance programmes are well established in many countries worldwide.
Sero-surveys, conducted over time could also inform officials about statistical data regarding any disease. For example, with an infection as scary and rapidly spreading as COVID-19, a sero-survey could provide information about what percentage of the population in a given city or district may have acquired some sort of immunity to the virus. It could also give them inputs about what further measures to take, where the disease more concentrated is or the age groups which might be more at risk. Hence, sero-surveys done over a period of time, or conducted every month, just like what has been detailed, can be one of the ways to measure the spread of the disease or map consequent spikes of the infection.
Sero-surveys derive results from the presence of antibodies, proteins meant to fight off infections which are part of the body’s immunology make-up. For a sero-survey, sample blood tests are done and if the antibody levels in the blood are detected, it can mean that a person has considerable immunity against the said infection. Sero-surveys done routinely could also show how long do antibodies last in the body and provide immunity against the disease, which is a pressing concern.
Another benefit of sero-surveillance is to observe if a vaccine can actually provide immunity. Given that we have a vaccine ready for the masses by the end of 2020 or early 2021 (which may or may not be possible), a sero-survey could show if the COVID-19 vaccine being deployed to the masses is actually working. Sero surveys could also identify any infection cases (asymptomatic, mild ones, or ones which may have gone away on its own) which may have been missed.
Apart from this, sero-surveillance has also been depended upon to identify trends of a certain disease, the burden of infection, predict potential outbreaks, new or emerging pathogens and in a way, help contribute to the rooting out of rampant infection. In the past, sero-surveillance has been used to map the spread of diseases and infections like Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and mumps.
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