Explained: The 4 Stages of COVID-19

How does a virus become an epidemic in a country? 

Health News
2 min read
What are the 4 stages of COVID-19?

There’s a lot being said of how a virus travels, and how India is at stage 2 of the novel coronavirus. But what does this really mean for us?

FIT decodes the 4 stages of a virus.

Stage 1: Imported Cases

When the virus travels from other high-risk countries with COVID-19 outbreaks to India.

Stage 2: Local Transmission

The virus is transmitted only to those in close contact with an infected patient. The cases remain within close family members or acquaintances. Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General of the ICMR said that India is currently at stage 2

Explained: The 4 Stages of COVID-19
(Photo: FIT)

Stage 3: Community Transmission

A person does not have to have travelled to high-risk countries, or be in direct contact with an infected person to become infected.

Here, the circle of transmission becomes so huge that doctors cannot trace where you got the virus from.

“It is too early to say that India has contained the virus. We are hoping not to reach the community transmission stage but this cannot be predicted. It depends on how strongly we close our international borders, this should help prevent it,” says ICMR.

Stage 4: Epidemic

The disease spreads rapidly to many people in a short time-span. This becomes a national health emergency.

Explained: The 4 Stages of COVID-19
(Photo: FIT)

Currently, India’s testing strategy is to focus on people who have travelled internationally and may have been infected via stage 1. If these people show symptoms and once tested, are confirmed to be positive, the next step is to reach out to their close contacts to test them. As per stage 2, people in the close circle of an infected person may be infected too.

They are not focussing on people outside of these two specific sets as we have not reached stage 3 yet.

So measures like social distancing, which can flatten the curve of the virus are of utmost importance.

“Going to stage 3 may be inevitable,” says Dr Bhargava, “but we have started prompt action to delay the course.” He praised India's efforts at self-containment like regulating and restricting international travel, ordering shut-downs of schools, universities and cinema-halls and encouraging offices to ensure their employees work from home. “We have started these measures at stage 2, whereas Italy and China took to extremes shutdowns at stage 4.”

IN that sense, we are ahead of the global trend. For the general public, social isolation is a must if possible - which is tough for many Indians who work in the informal sector - but for ICMR it may be time to amp up proactive measures to protect us when stage 3 hits.

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