An apex group of doctors on Saturday said that official figures of Covid-19 deaths are an underestimate as many deaths due to the virus go unreported in the Kashmir valley.
“The actual number of people dying from Covid is higher than what is reported,” The Doctors Association Kashmir said.
“The reported death toll is an undercount and only provides a snapshot of the true toll virus has taken,” DAK President Dr Nisar ul Hassan said.
The influenza expert said only those deaths make it to the official count that has been confirmed as Covid-19 through RT-PCR testing.
“But the test can miss more than 30 percent of positive cases,” he said.
“We see many patients who test negative on RT-PCR test, but show CT features consistent with Covid-19 disease, but they are not reported,” he added
Dr Hassan said that while elderly people have the highest rates of hospitalization and death, many are not tested for Covid in hospitals.
“Older people don’t develop typical Covid symptoms. In them, feeling weak or confused may be the only sign of having the infection,” he said.
“When patients lack classic signs, health professionals are less likely to think of the diagnosis. This means many patients die undiagnosed,” he added.
The DAK President said that many Covid deaths are hidden among other diseases.
“Many patients with heart or lung disease die of Covid, but their death is attributed to their underlying condition,” he said.
Dr Nisar said that many people with Covid symptoms don’t get tested for the virus because of the fear of stigma and quarantine of family members.
“Social stigma makes people hide their illness and keep them away from seeking health care,” he said.
He said that people fear that if they die of Covid-19, they will not get a decent burial and only a few will come to their funeral.
“As a result, people are choosing to die at home, unrecorded,” he said.
“Accurate data is vitally important for an appropriate response which is key to mitigate further disaster.
To deal with the problem, we must understand how bad it is.
Poor quality data equals poor decision which in turn leads to a lost opportunity to improve population health in a crisis.
Without accurate tallies, response won’t be enough to defeat the outbreak,” said Dr Nisar.