Karnataka's suspected coronavirus patient dies

Karnataka's suspected coronavirus patient dies in Kalaburagi, could be India’s first COVID-19 casualty

Representative image. (AFP Photo)

Mystery surrounds the first possible coronavirus fatality in India as the samples of the 76-year-old suspected Covid-19 patient from Kalaburagi who died on Wednesday, were yet to reach the lab in Bengaluru two full days after they were drawn.

There seemed to be poor coordination between district authorities with officials in Bengaluru yet to receive the samples that were collected in Kalaburagi on March 9.

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“The samples were collected at 3.30 pm on March 9,” confirmed M A Jabbar, Kalaburagi District Health Officer to DH.

Samples were expected to be delivered to Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory by a courier company by 10.30 pm on Wednesday, said an official.

Though a distance of 573 km between Kalaburagi and Bengaluru can be covered in 11 hours by road, the courier logistics company had not delivered the samples even after more than 48 hours.

“We are told the company is sending it by flight and will reach Bengaluru airport by 8.45 pm. It would take another two hours to reach the lab. As far as possible, we will try to run the test tonight, or in the morning. The test would take six hours. The report should be out by Thursday morning,” said the investigator.

Health Minister B Sreeramulu told reporters in Vidhana Soudha, “The patient was suffering from co-morbidities like asthma, hypertension, pneumonia and hepatitis.”

When patients with a travel history and minor symptoms like cold, cough and fever are being quarantined and kept in home isolation or are being isolated at health facilities, the private hospital where the patient was admitted did not retain the patient at the hospital by intimating health authorities about it, but instead allowed the relatives to shift him to a hospital in Hyderabad. It was when he was being brought back to Kalaburagi that the patient died.

On being questioned why the patient was not stopped by authorities from being shifted, both Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary (Health), and Dr BG Prakash Kumar, Joint Director, Communicable Diseases said that since it was a private hospital, district health authorities were powerless. There are many reported instances of suspected Covid-19 patients across the country being brought back to hospitals for quarantine with the help of police when they refuse to cooperate.

Jabbar told DH, “The family shifted the patient late in the night against medical advice. We came to know about it only in the morning.” 

According to Jabbar, the senior citizen was treated at a private hospital’s outpatient department on March 6, admitted as an inpatient on March 9 (on the same day afternoon his sample was taken) and on the night shifted to Hyderabad. He was brought back to Kalaburagi on Tuesday. He passed away during his interstate travel.

Jawaid Akhtar, Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Karnataka, said, "As in any death of a patient with a virus, COVID-19 or otherwise, the patient was buried in the presence of a doctor as per protocol."