Background & objectives: Sentinel surveillance among severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) patients can help identify the spread and extent of transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). SARI surveillance was initiated in the early phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in India. We describe here the positivity for COVID-19 among SARI patients and their characteristics.
Methods: SARI patients admitted at 41 sentinel sites from February 15, 2020 onwards were tested for COVID-19 by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, targeting E and RdRp genes of SARS-CoV-2. Data were extracted from Virus Research and Diagnostic Laboratory Network for analysis.
Results: A total of 104 (1.8%) of the 5,911 SARI patients tested were positive for COVID-19. These cases were reported from 52 districts in 20 States/Union Territories. The COVID-19 positivity was higher among males and patients aged above 50 years. In all, 40 (39.2%) COVID-19 cases did not report any history of contact with a known case or international travel.
Interpretation & conclusions: COVID-19 containment activities need to be targeted in districts reporting COVID-19 cases among SARI patients. Intensifying sentinel surveillance for COVID-19 among SARI patients may be an efficient tool to effectively use resources towards containment and mitigation efforts.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARI; sentinel; surveillance; Containment.