Mumbai woman tests positive for dengue twice, but BMC's not convinced

In a seeming bid to fudge statistics and brush cases under the carpet, a Cooper Hospital discharge form for a 26-year-old woman, who had tested positive for dengue, makes no mention of the disease; she tested positive for it again after her discharge

In a year when at least 19 people have died of dengue and the city has seen a 22% increase in the number of people suffering from the disease, the last thing that Mumbaikars would want to hear is that instead of battling dengue, the BMC has been shoving cases under the carpet and fudging statistics.

Zakia Sheikh and the reports stating that she had tested positive for dengue
Zakia Sheikh and the reports stating that she had tested positive for dengue

That, however, seems to be exactly what is happening. For, despite a report by a reputed pathology lab stating that she had tested positive for the vector-borne disease, a 26-year-old woman’s discharge form from the civic-run Cooper Hospital, where she underwent treatment for four days, makes no mention of dengue and states that she was treated for acute febrile illness a non-specific term for an illness of sudden onset accompanied by fever.

A relapse, however, exposed the lie of the hospital’s diagnosis, as she tested positive for dengue again, this time in a test by another reputed pathology lab.

On November 11, Zakia Sheikh, a 26-year-old housewife from Santacruz, approached her family physician Dr Vasant Shenoy, with symptoms of fever and nausea.

He advised a blood test and the report from a reputed pathology lab categorically states that after conducting a Rapid Spot Test, the patient had been diagnosed with the dengue antigen. mid-day has a copy of the report.

Sheikh was admitted to Cooper Hospital in Juhu on the same day and, after a four-day stay, was issued a discharge note which made no mention of dengue and simply stated that she had been treated for AFI or acute febrile illness (copy with mid-day).

Soon after her hospital discharge on November 15, Zakia had a severe relapse and, on Dr Shenoy’s advice, went for a blood test again, this time from a different lab. The lab report, dated November 22, 2014, once again confirmed that she had the dengue virus.

Medical opinion
“When a laboratory specifically states that the patient is suffering from dengue, how can the hospital underplay it and refer to the illness just as an AFI?. I have a feeling that the BMC health staff in hospitals and dispensaries have been specifically instructed to avoid recording the fact that dengue patients are pouring in at BMC healthcare-delivering facilities.

A casual inquiry with standard pathology laboratories will reveal that a large number of patients are testing positive for dengue NS1 antigen test and other tests. Fortunately, the incidence of complications and death is not very high,” said Dr Shenoy, who is said to be one of the best general practitioners in the city.

The doctor added that common causes of acute febrile illnesses in tropical countries have similar symptoms, which often mimic those of dengue. He said accurate clinical diagnosis can be difficult without laboratory confirmation, which was done not once, but twice, in the case of Zakia, which is a prime example that needs to be investigated further. “Two labs in the city cannot make the same mistake and diagnose dengue,” Dr Shenoy asserted.

Dr Mahendra Desai, who runs Aarti Laboratories, where the second test was done, stated that all ENU-related tests are carried out in an SRL lab and checked twice if they are positive. “In the current scenario, almost three out of ten tests for dengue test positive,” he said.

'Significant barrier'
The World Health Organisation’s official report of The Scientific Working Group on Dengue, 2006, states: Under-reporting of dengue cases (fatal and non-fatal) is probably the most important and significant barrier to making an accurate assessment of incidence of dengue. It is a major concern which needs to be addressed properly. Quantifying epidemiological and economic burden of dengue is considered as ‘the key to formulate proper policy decisions’.

The other side
Dr Mangala Gumare, head of the BMC’s epidemiology cell, which is coordinating with the Kasturba Hospital said that she would be in a position to comment only after scrutinising the Lab reports.

“Officials from Cooper Hospital will be in a better position to explain,” she said. Dr Sitaram Gawde, Medical Superintendent at Cooper Hospital, said that he would have to check the facts of the case with the doctors who treated Zakia.

BMC’s Chief Public Relations officer Vijay Khabale-Pati took down the details of the case and said he would investigate the matter. “It is surprising that despite two labs giving a positive dengue report, the matter was brushed under the carpet,” he said.

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