The problem with a Rs90 dengue test

Published: September 22, 2011

Because of the rush of normal patients seeking to get their test done, the actual Dengue patients are being overlooked. PHOTO: AFP

There is a major dengue fever outbreak in the city of Lahore. Several thousand patients have been documented, and many more have gone undiagnosed. In addition, there is a general sense of paranoia, and people are very scared of the illness.

One of the important aspects in the care of dengue fever patients is the establishment of the diagnosis. Since a large number of patients are poor and cannot afford treatment, it is important to make arrangements to make these diagnostic facilities accessible to all. However, it must also be ensured that the diagnostic facilities and resources are not wasted.

One such measure is the notification that set the rate for Complete Blood Count test (CBC) is to be at Rs90. In spirit, this is a good move as it allows all segments of society to get tested. However, there has been an unexpected consequence; a large number of people have started getting their CBC test done simply because it is so cheap. Diagnostic facilities which were already working at full capacity are now faced with another tidal wave of blood samples. As a result, the following things are happening or are bound to happen:

  1. Because of the rush of normal patients seeking to get their test done, the actual dengue patients are being overlooked.
  2. As the workload increases beyond the capacity of the diagnostic facilities, the reporting time for the crucial CBC test is rising. Already the reporting time at most facilities has grown to more than 12 hours.
  3. In the rush to test these thousands of CBC samples, patients who do not have dengue fever but other illnesses such as malaria or leukemia are likely to be overlooked or ignored.
  4. There is a finite supply of reagent needed to perform the CBC test. At present, we are consuming the reagent far quicker than it can be imported. Heaven forbid if labs start to run out of the reagents needed to perform the CBC test, we will have taken a epidemic and made it worse.

In this time of crisis, it is very important that collaborative and streamlined efforts are made by all those involved in taking care of dengue fever patients. We must focus our attention on actual  patients instead of trying to cater to everyone who desires a CBC test. In addition to this, we must remember that not every patient with a fever has dengue fever. Moreover, we must all work together to educate the public about this illness.

Omar Chughtai

Omar Chughtai

An avid reader of blogs who works as Lab Director at Chughtais Lahore Lab. Omar tweets @OmarChughtai.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.