Fear of stigma makes people dodge fever survey

Activists of ‘Covid Vaccine Chaitanya Vedika’ demanding free vaccination to all adults at Golconda X roads in Hyderabad on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: RAMAKRISHNA G

Fear of stigma and ostracism are forcing villagers in Telangana to dodge the questions of ASHA workers conducting door-to-door fever survey. “People are not giving correct information as they fear they will get isolated. There is a sense of fear,” says Purna Nagula from Sircilla.

To add to the problem, the testing for COVID-19 in rural areas has declined. “Earlier we were doing the tests in our village but now the testing has been shifted to Narmetta,” informed an ASHA worker from Jangaon district.

Dip in testing

The sharp dip in the number of rapid antigen tests as well as reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction tests in the rural districts of the State can be seen in the daily media bulletins issued by the Health Department. On April 23, there were 3027 tests, of which 58 were positive in Mulug. On May 5, the number dropped to 763, with 55 citizens testing positive. This is not the only district where the number of tests being conducted dropped. In Bhadradri, the number of tests on April 23 were 5449 and on May 5 this dipped to less than half 2064. The same story is repeated in many districts and is the clue to the dip in positive cases in the State.

A State Bank of India research report shows how the disease has spread to the hinterlands of India. “The share of the top 15 districts in total new cases has significantly dipped to 26.3% in May from 55% in March, indicating the spread of infections is now widely dispersed across the country. The other worrying trend is the increase in rural penetration. The share of rural districts in new cases has increased to 48.5% in May compared to 36.8% in March,” says the SBI report.

Viral fevers are not unknown in the rural areas of Telangana in the forest belt of Khammam, Mulug, Adilabad and Bhadradri. “Sunstroke, fever, and diarrhoea are common during summer. We ask people having fever to take paracetamol and painkillers and if the fever persists over five days, we are asking them to undergo the COVID-19 test,” says Kanakalakshmi, an ASHA worker.

Recently, a teacher in Govindraopet mandal (we are refraining from identifying the village) passed away after contracting the disease.

Adding to the chaos is that patients are getting a positive result for typhoid test while they are affected by SARS-CoV2. “There are cases in villages but they are being misidentified as typhoid, and by the time the disease is correctly diagnosed, it is too late. If one person gets it, everyone in the family is getting it,” says a social activist working in Talamadugu village in Adilabad.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 3:13:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/fear-of-stigma-makes-people-dodge-fever-survey/article34516598.ece

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