| Mumbai |
Updated: July 28, 2020 8:25:34 pm
A sero-survey conducted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on 6,936 people from three wards found that 57 per cent respondents in slums had been exposed to and developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 virus, as opposed to 16 per cent in residential societies.
Those who were associated with the survey said that shared facilities like toilets, high population density and lack of physical distancing may be the reasons why those living in slums were 3.5 times more exposed to the virus than people living in housing societies.
Overall, the survey found that 40 per cent had had the infection. A surprise finding is that more women had been infected than men.
Despite the high exposure in slums, the survey found that fatalities had not been high. “This could be due to multiple factors. We have to look at demography, and low fatality rate could also be due to a possible higher percentage of younger population in slums,” said Dr Ullas Kolthur Seetharam, from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), who was part of the study.
None of the nearly 7,000 people tested had taken a RT-PCR test for Covid-19, which means either they were aysmptomatically infected, or they may not have had serious enough symptoms to suspect they had caught the infection.
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The survey was carried out over a fortnight in July in Dahisar, Chembur and Matunga, which have from low to high prevalence of Covid-19 cases respectively.
The BMC conducted the survey with TIFR and Niti Aayog. Among those tested, there are an equal number of slum and non-slum dwellers, men and women, and people from different age groups, ranging from 10 year olds to senior citizens. TIFR and BMC officials said this was more representative of the population, unlike in the tests by private labs, where only self-chosen affluent people were tested.
Of the 8,870 people targeted, 6,936 were eventually tested.
“Close to 40 per cent tested positive over all. The results have shown that asymptomatic population of Covid-19 is higher than we expected, which is a good news. People have been exposed to the coronavirus and most have not even developed symptoms,” said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner.
Kakani added that the intervention techniques to use masks and sanitise hands will be continued as a preventive measure. “This also shows our strategy on testing and isolating in slums has worked. We lifted the entire high risk population and quarantined them. This helped break the viral chain,” Kakani said.
Seetharaman, from TIFR, said residential areas had lower exposure rate due to individual rooms with toilets, a facility that slum settlements lack. “There is more intermingling of population in slum,” he said. A second sero survey will be conducted after a month to measure epidemiological changes.
Last week, data of 9,590 samples tested for antibodies in Mumbai’s two private laboratories had shown 24.3 per cent had antibodies against Covid-19 in Mumbai. These samples, collected from office goers, businessmen, salon staff, health workers, indicates that close to one-fourth of the population in the city, or two out of every nine, have already been exposed to coronavirus and generated antibodies against the infection.
The latest BMC sero survey points at a higher exposure of the population to coronavirus. Experts said private labs tested more people from residential areas, who could afford testing and wanted to know if they are under risk. The positivity rate of antibodies in them is lower than slum dwellers. With BMC survey covering slum settlements, the exposure rate has increased.
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