Cautious Optimism: Fewer New Covid-19 Cases in Cuba

The authorities maintain that the containment measures for the new coronavirus have not yet been eliminated.

By IPS Cuba

The danger of asymptomatic cases, specialists and the population agree, is that these people have the virus and they can spread it. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

HAVANA TIMES – Two asymptomatic cases detected by a population study in Cuban municipalities where covid-19 infections had not been reported, show a truth that is often repeated: the new coronavirus may be where it is least expected.

Dr. Francisco Duran, director of epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, said at the press conference yesterday, of the 83,868 samples carried out, the presence of the disease that plagues the world today was confirmed on 1,881 persons (2.2 percent).

However, 939 of the 1,881 infected people were without any symptoms at least at the time of their diagnosis, representing 49.9 percent of the identified cases, said Duran.

Among the most common symptoms are dry cough, fever, tiredness, headaches, difficulty in breathing, or feeling short of breath. Others, less common, are usually sore throat, diarrhea, and even, loss of smell and taste.

The danger of asymptomatic cases, specialists and the population agree, is that these people have the virus and they can spread it.

“Imagine, it can be anyone next to you in a line and you can catch it right there. I don’t know why people are already lowering their guard taking off their masks”, noted a teacher who has been at home since the school year stopped on March 22.

Cuban health authorities maintain that the new cases that have appeared were detected in isolation centers, where they were confined because they were contacts of confirmed persons.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, on March 11, 64 cases, 3.4 percent of the total, have no precise source of contagion.

Population study in Cuban territories

Given the need to deepen knowledge about the circulation of the virus in the country, Cuba began a population study on May 12th that has already detected positive cases, even in places where no cases had been reported.

“Both the case of Pinar del Río, in the Mantua municipality, and that of Las Tunas, in the Manatí municipality, are the result of the population study, using the real-time PCR test, with a sample of nasopharyngeal culture”, explained the doctor who reports every day on state television about the epidemic.

This study, he said, “allows for detecting positive people without symptoms or complication of the disease, who possibly would not have been detected at any time.”

“We hope to obtain the greatest number of positive people in our country with the presence of the virus in order to isolate them, search for their contacts, and take control measures, which is the most important thing,” said Duran.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, the study will include more than 4,000 selected people, in 70 municipalities in the country, which would cover 1,300 homes in more than 200 health areas.

In addition to real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), they will be given a questionnaire that includes personal and other data regarding their area of residence, exposure to the virus and the pathological history of diseases they suffer from.

Starting on May 12, the biological samples will be taken for 63 days and will be repeated periodically to the same persons, every 21 days, on three other occasions. Tracking will close on July 24, 2020.

In the case of Havana, where the highest number of cases is reported, with 898 and an incidence rate of 42.06 per 100,000 inhabitants, the study will reach 300 families and 900 people.

Luis Carlos Silva, an expert in sampling techniques and a member of the multidisciplinary team that designed the research, told the local press that the study is about assessing the degree of virus circulation in the population and measuring the presence of generated antibodies by the organism once it is attacked by the pathogen.

“This is a study of asymptomatic people, which will allow us to get much closer to diagnosing the disease,” said the Minister of Public Health, Jose Angel Portal, on the government’s nightly Round Table television program.

Silva emphasized that the purpose of the study “is not to do an investigation to find hidden cases”. However, if they identify themselves, he said they will have care according to the existing protocols for any patient or suspect.

Although in the last days the number of newly reported positive cases has decreased, and for five consecutive days no deaths were reported, the authorities noted that restriction measures remain in place, since otherwise it could cause a new spike, as has happened in several countries.

One thought on “Cautious Optimism: Fewer New Covid-19 Cases in Cuba

  • The island of Cuba is the perfect petrie dish to conduct such an experiment because of the isolation of the population from ongoing outside infections. I am not optimistic but I will say out loud that I can only hope that Castro politics will not serve to taint the study

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