Mystery Over K’taka’s ‘Patient 52’ Finds Theories, But No Answers

29 employees of a pharmaceutical company and 17 primary contacts have tested positive in three weeks in Nanjangud.

3 min read
Mystery Over K’taka’s ‘Patient 52’ Finds Theories, But No Answers

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It has been three weeks since an employee of a pharmaceutical company in Mysuru’s Nanjangud, with no travel history, contracted the COVID-19 virus. Since then, 28 of his colleagues and 17 primary contacts have tested positive.

Nanjangud town is now sealed with all the four entry and exit points blocked, but on Wednesday, 15 April, the town reported nine new positive cases.

The Karnataka government’s explanation for the source of the virus for the index patient is just three possible theories.

From contracting the virus from a health worker, contracting it from a parcel from China to the visit of some foreign nationals, the government has offered theories but no concrete answer on how the town became a hotspot.


The Latest Theory – Foreign Visitors

The index patient, often referred to as patient 52, is a 35-year-old man who did not have any foreign travel or contact history.

When asked about the status of investigation into this case, Karnataka Education Minister S Suresh Kumar, who addresses daily COVID-19 briefings, said the government is investigating the possibility of patient 52 getting the virus from some foreigners who had visited the company.

This is the third and latest theory proposed by the government.

“Delegates had visited the company from the United States, Germany, Japan and China between 4 and 18 February. The first patient in the cluster showed symptoms on 13 March and tested positive on 24 March (Patient 52). Since then, we have tested 780 people connected to the company.”
Suresh Kumar, Karnataka Education Minister.

However, a senior Health Department official told The Quint that they can’t confirm whether these visits resulted in the infection that has remained unexplained.


The ‘Parcel from China’ Theory

Picture for representation purposes. 
(Photo: AP/PTI)

While the government has come up with a new theory, a report from National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune is still expected. Karnataka government had sent a sample from a parcel that came to the company from China.

Talking to the media in the first week of April, Minister for Medical Education D Sudhakar had said there is strong suspicion of the parcel resulting the spread.

“We have found the gel (imported by the company) that has come from China. The samples have been sent to Pune. We contacted many of his contacts, nobody has any primary contact with any COVID-19 positive person”
D Sudhakar, Minister for Medical Education

As per the latest update, the test results are yet to arrive from Pune.


The Health Worker Theory

When the case was initially reported, Karnataka health department had said that since patient number 52 was an employee with the quality assurance section of a pharma firm he might have come in touch with several healthcare workers.

Even after 20 days of investigation the government has not found any leads to substantiate this theory either.

At the same time, health department officials insist there is no community transmission in the state.


Meanwhile, a total lockdown has been enforced in Nanjangud town since the first set of five cases were reported. All activity has been suspended with only one entry and exit point open for essential and emergency services remaining operational. A three-kilometre buffer zone had been created within the town, and a huge influx of healthcare workers like ASHAs have been roped in to go door to door.

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