Experts say proper handling of samples can slow Covid spread in India

PTI25-07-2020_000123B
A health worker arranges tubes containing swab samples in a tray for COVID-19 test at a medical camp, Kasimedu fish market, inChennai, Saturday. Photo: PTI
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New Delhi: As the healthcare personnel - especially sample collectors - who are getting infected increasingly and putting their life at risk, experts on Sunday have stressed that along with using PPE kits, gloves and mask, the safety of these workers also depends on the quality of the virus handling materials especially the viral transport medium.

According to the experts, workers and equipment involved in the collection and transportation of Covid-19 samples could act as a source of infection.

Hence, the proper use of PPE by workers involved in sampling and transportation of Covid-19 samples are essential.

'As sample collection centres are increasing in the country, proper disposal of waste generated at sample collection centre is also critical to prevent the spread of Covid-19," Harshal R. Salve, Associate Professor at All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, told IANS.

"The most crucial element which comes is when you are handling the virus which starts with the sample being collected and transported in a 'Viral Transport Medium'," Salve added.

The viral transport medium of the right quality and especially using tubes which are completely leak-proof and contamination-free as leakage of tubes can cause a huge impact on the spread of the virus to the healthcare individuals performing the test.

Recently, the Indian Medical Association had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and informed about the situation of healthcare workers in the county.

In a letter to PM Modi, The IMA cited government data and said 87,000 healthcare workers had been infected and 573 of them had lost their lives due to Covid-19.

On Saturday, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has allowed testing on-demand for Covid-19 even as it has allowed states to adapt to the recommendation as per their requirements.

Anil Hota, CEO of SAR Cellulabs Pvt. Ltd., a Gurugram-based company, which deals in providing consumables for Covid testing - said that, for healthcare workers, it is essential to use 'Viral Transport Medium' manufactured in line with USFDA and ICMR standards and using tubes which are completely leak-proof proven with their historical records.

"Substandard quality products put healthcare workers at risk, so it becomes very important for us to protect our healthcare workers at the moment by using quality products for sample collection along with stringent parameters," Hota added.

S.P. Byotra, Chairman, Department of International Medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, told IANS: "Handling coronavirus samples should also be given equal importance in order to reduce infection among healthcare workers."

"The safety of healthcare workers is dependent on their exposure to the virus which directly transcribes from the quality of the virus handling materials," Byotra said.

"Especially the viral transport medium which carries the virus, as in case of any leakage in the sample post collection, it becomes dangerous because of having loads of live virus in it," he warned.

On Sunday morning, India reported a record daily jump of 90,632 Covid-19 virus infections in 24 hours, taking its tally past the 41 lakh-mark.

According to the data revealed by the Union Health Ministry, the total case tally stands at 41,13,812 including 8,62,320 active cases, 31,80,866 cured/discharged and 70,626 deaths.

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