• Test-wary Kol depends on Covid symptoms; docs flag concern
    Times of India | 13 January 2022
  • KOLKATA: With entire families having Covid-like symptoms, many are ready to assume that they have the virus and are reluctant to get tested. Instead, they are taking medicines after consultation with doctors and going into home isolation for a week.

    While this has reduced the pressure on diagnostic laboratories to an extent – which are already facing a stiff challenge handling thousands of tests each day – doctors and experts are worried that this would lead to a gross under-reporting of cases and encourage self-medication.

    Number of tests has dropped sharply at Peerless Hospital since last week. While it tested more than 400 samples a day last week, it slid to 327 on Tuesday. “The symptomatic are now reluctant to get tested and preferring home isolation, assuming they have Covid. Since the new ICMR guideline says that asymptomatic contacts need not get tested, they, too, are staying away. But the latter are often not sticking to isolation and many are not even wearing masks, risking a spread,” said Peerless microbiologist Bhaskar Narayan Chowdhury.

    He added that the availability of rapid testing kits over the counter has encouraged the tendency to avoid a proper RT-PCR. “Many are using these kits at home but not uploading the result on tesing positive. Even those testing negative but with persistent symptoms need to consult a doctor and find out if they have a non-Covid infection that could be serious,” said Chowdhury.

    Thousands of symptomatic patients are relying on self-medication which could be fatal for many, said RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) intensivist Sauren Panja. “Almost 40% of the patients who consulted me over the last one week had already started taking antibiotics. This could be useless and counter-protective. Antibiotics have no role in Covid unless there is a secondary or associated infection. So, those with the virus will actually suffer more and could deteriorate,” said Panja.

    Every symptomatic person should get tested, even if it is a rapid test or one done at home with a self-test kit, said internal medicine consultant Arindam Biswas. “Else, the real number of infected people will remain unknown and asymptomatic carriers will spread the disease,” he said.

    It is still too early to assume that all Covid positives have Omicron since Delta is active as well, said Chowdhury. “A good number of cases could still be severe and avoiding a test and the right treatment could be risky. We have already seen a spike in severe cases and rise in mortality triggered by this tendency to avoid a test. Many are delaying treatment having skipped the test and seeking admission when they have already deteriorated,” added Chowdhury.

    Medica Supersecialty Hospital has been receiving 2-3 severe cases every day, according to chairperson Alok Roy. The hospital has been doing between 500 and 600 tests a day. “All our 45 ICU beds are occupied. Even two weeks ago, the number of patients was one-third,” said Roy, adding that most severe patients were people with comorbidities.
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