COVID-19: Sharp rise in infection among pregnant women in Kashmir

The total number of cases in Jammu and Kashmir now at 4,083; around 232 pregnant women test positive

By Riyaz Wani
Published: Monday 08 June 2020

A sharp increase in the cases of pregnant women testing positive for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the COVID-19 disease, has left health officials in Jammu and Kashmir surprised. There were 51 such infections reported on June 8, 2020, while 70 pregnant women were reported to have contracted the disease in the first four days of this month itself.

The total number of pregnant women with COVID-19 in the Union territory (UT) were 232. Of these, 79 pregnant women were from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Kulgam is the second-most affected district in south Kashmir, with 50 cases.

Fears of community transmission have increased as well, as the total COVID-19 cases in the UT increased by 620 on June 8, taking the total cases to 4,083. 

“It does validate the suspicion of community transmission. It is true the administration began specifically testing pregnant women, so more cases are coming to light,” said Nisar ul-Hassan, president of the Doctors Association of Kashmir.

“The pregnant women have no travel history. They represent the general population,” he added.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration made testing of all pregnant women mandatory in early May after a local court took suo motu cognisance of the death of two pregnant women in Anantnag.

Pandurang K Pole, Kashmir’s divisional commissioner, directed health authorities — after the court’s intervention — to devise birth plans for pregnant women so they could be tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus on time.

It subsequently became mandatory for pregnant women to be tested at least a week ahead of their delivery.

The women are not picked up for testing, as part of the regular process that involves contact-tracing of COVID-19 positive patients. They come from the general population and their examination, thus, falls in the category of random testing of the healthy population.

That the women did not have any travel or contact history was something reiterated by Salim Khan, the nodal officer for COVID-19 and head of department for Social and Preventive Medicine at Government Medical College, Srinagar.

Doctors are now advising pregnant women to avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres. “Pregnant women shouldn’t visit healthcare centres. It puts them at a higher risk of contracting the virus,” said ul-Hassan.

He also stressed the need for dedicated helplines for pregnant women in each district, where doctors are available on call to address their health-related queries. “A doctor on call will obviate the need for the women to visit health facilities which can be a source of infection,” ul-Hassan added.

The total number of deaths from COVID-19 has reached 40. This has forced the administration to declare all Kashmir Valley districts — except Ganderbal and Bandipora — as red zones on June 7, ahead of the issuance of new guidelines for easing out the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

A survey was carried out among government officials whether the lockdown in the valley should continue or not. The order to declare the districts as red zones and continue the lockdown in the Kashmir Valley was released subsequently.

The recent spike in new cases as a result of those travelling to Jammu and Kashmir, including migrants who were stranded in other states, were the benchmarks of the survey, according to the government order.

“The risk perception of the health department vis-a-vis each district and the need to further control the spread of COV1D-19 was discussed,” said the order.

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