COVID-19: 17-year-old boy tests positive at JJ Hospital after death; family not quarantined

Updated: Apr 18, 2020, 07:56 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Cause of death cited as tubercular meningitis as the test results weren't out at that point of time; parents unaware of the test; JJ in charge insists the boy died of TB.

The family had buried the body by the time the test results saying he tested positive for COVID-19 came. File pic
The family had buried the body by the time the test results saying he tested positive for COVID-19 came. File pic

A 17-year-old boy from Govandi, who was admitted to JJ Hospital last Friday, died early on Tuesday. His family was handed the body with the cause of death cited as tubercular meningitis. But they were not told that his COVID-19 test results were pending. The test reports came on Tuesday night, when the family had already buried the body. The teenager tested positive for COVID-19. However, the JJ hospital in charge insists he died of TB.

According to doctors at JJ Hospital, the patient was delirious when he was brought on Friday, April 10. By Saturday, the patient, who was diagnosed with brain TB, started complaining of breathlessness, and was shifted to the ICU and put on ventilator. On Monday, because of his worsening condition, the patient's COVID-19 swab test was done and the results were awaited. However, by Tuesday morning he had died.

Cause of death, 'TB'

A doctor said, "It looked like he died of TB, which is why the relatives were handed the body, with the cause of death being respiratory failure due to TB meningitis. The COVID-19 test results came in only after the family was handed the body. His death was labelled as due to TB because at that point, he had not tested positive for COVID-19."

A doctor said that some of the doctors and nurses who had worked in the ICU and general wards were quarantined immediately. A senior doctor at JJ Hospital said that doctors and nurses are not required to wear COVID-19 protective gear in the ICU and general wards, which therefore causes concern that they could have contracted the virus from the deceased. "There are around 50 doctors and 20-odd nurses who work in the ICU. Some of them have been quarantined but that is not enough," the doctor said.

The doctor said only a post mortem could reveal cause of death. The doctor further said simply drawing the conclusion that the death was caused due to TB — and not COVID-19 — because the patient was suffering from TB, was not justified. "The link between the two needs to be found. Ideally his body should have been kept in the mortuary while his test reports were awaited."

Family unaware of COVID test

The 44-year-old father of the deceased, who works as a helper at the Vashi vegetable market, said they were not told he was tested for COVID-19. The father also said that the family has not been approached to be quarantined. He said, "We brought the body back home in an ambulance, after which we buried him. I have not been told that my son tested positive for COVID-19. No one from the hospital has approached us after that."

Dr Tatyarao Lahane, in charge of JJ Hospital, said that the teenager had been suffering from TB for the past three months and his being COVID-19 positive was an accidental finding. "The patient had been receiving treatment for TB from four different places since mid-January. He was admitted to a ward in JJ on Friday, and developed severe meningitis by Saturday, which is when he was shifted to the ICU. He had no fever on Saturday…but by Monday his temperature was over 100. So, we did a COVID-19 test. Samples were sent on Monday evening but by Tuesday morning he had died. The result of the tests takes 24 hours. The body was handed over to the relatives after his death," he said.

When asked why was the body handed over though the COVID-19 test results were pending, Lahane said, "He has 200% died due to TB…he had been a TB patient for almost three months."

In spite of repeatedly asking why the parents were not told about their son having tested positive for COVID-19, mid-day got no answer. There was also no answer as to why were the parents not approached to be quarantined.

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