Project Balik Buhay Aims to Trace Asymptomatic Covid ‘Super-Spreaders’


Cebu City – Based on the latest figures from the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU), about 90% of the positive cases in Cebu City are asymptomatic.

These are people who tested positive for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), but do not experience Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) or Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI).

They were all tested as a result of the contact tracing following the ILI-SARI Surveillance protocol.

Thus, Local Government Units in the tri-cities Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu, together with Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) under the Project Balik Buhay (PBB) found strategic mass testing to be of utmost importance in order to identify these asymptomatic patients at the sitio level for proper management, in their collaborative efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Records also show that only 10% of the positive cases in Cebu City are symptomatic, or those with flu-like symptoms (ILI and SARI).

The testing results from persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) as well as jail guards at the Cebu City Jail under the  Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), also show the same picture or scenario.

BJMP testing recorded 85% of the inmates tested through Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RTPCR) Testing Kits are asymptomatic, while 15% of them are symptomatic.

These figures therefore prove that most of the people who test positive of the virus do not know it, or do not have any idea that they have been infected and are transmitting the virus unto their families and communities.

Thus, they are the “Super-Spreaders” since they tend to continue on with their regular daily activities during the Enhanced Community Quarantine without knowing that they have the disease and that they are contagious.

These “super-spreaders” can go to market places, eat with their families at home, and walk around their neighborhoods if they have the quarantine pass.

OPAV believes these people are what the LGUs should be looking for to control the accelerated spread of the virus.

Therefore, OPAV together with the three highly urbanized cities of Cebu believe that in order to map out the cases in the communities and give a clearer picture of the incidence and extent of infection down to the barangay level, and most importantly, to determine the disease prevalence in the communities, the Rapid Antibody Testing (being the faster and more cost-effective form of testing) is appropriate for the strategic mass testing as a conduit to PCR Testing, which is due to start on May 6.

The Rapid Testing Kits that will be used in this strategic mass testing will determine the presence of antibodies of a particular subject.

One representative from each household shall undergo the rapid test, which will be done following only an infection control-compliant testing procedure in the barangays.

This testing will be done in accordance to DOH standards, ensuring that a strict aseptic technique through the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), disinfectants, sterile syringes, among others, are followed.

Rapid Testing uses blood samples, wherein the procedure for bold extraction is similar to that of extracting a sample for Complete Blood Count (CBC) Testing.

Thus, with the standards observed, and as long as the medical technologists wear their PPEs and the persons to be tested wear their masks, transmission of the disease is least likely to happen.

OPAV appeals to the people to cooperate to this testing, as this is for now the most feasible and effective way of detecting the prevalence of the disease in the city, barangay, or sitio.

Once a subject is tested positive for Immunoglobulin M (IgM), a confirmatory test will be done through the RTPCR Testing (Oropharyngeal and Nasopharyngeal Swabs), which is considered as the gold standard for COVID-19 detection.

OPAV, LGUs and PBB believe that due to the higher number of asymptomatic among the positive cases, without the Strategic Mass Testing (through the Rapid Test) we will always be one step behind in our fight against COVID-19.

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