Karnataka: Doctors warn not to ignore fever, even if dengue tests negative

As of July 7, the state health department has conducted about 54,820 serum sample tests.
Dengue fever
Image used for representationExpress Illustrations

BENGALURU: With rising dengue cases, doctors in the city have warned the public not to neglect fever and other symptoms, even if the dengue test comes negative. In addition to dengue, doctors have also noted a surge in infections like chikungunya, water-borne illnesses like Hepatitis A, and respiratory illnesses like RSV, H1N1, and seasonal influenza, all of which exhibit dengue-like symptoms.

As of July 7, the state health department has conducted about 54,820 serum sample tests. However, only 7,165 cases tested positive. Experts highlighted that, while many people must be facing dengue like symptoms, the timing of the test and the right kind of test are important to know the exact cause and type of infection. “Be extra cautious with food and drinking water consumed outside,” said the doctors.

Dr Swati Rajagopal, Consultant for Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine at Aster CMI Hospital, explained that if an individual experiences sudden high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting, and a skin rash in later stages, it is advisable to consult a doctor and get tested.

“Tests for antigen and antibodies can detect dengue infection. However, if a person with febrile illness and symptoms similar to dengue tests negative, it may indicate other viral infections such as chikungunya or Zika,” she added.

Experts explained that NS1 or IgM tests can show negative results despite dengue-like symptoms, due to the timing of the test in relation to the onset of the infection, variations in individual immune responses, and the specificity of the tests.

Doctors note that the dengue NS1 antigen can be detected by the third day after infection, while IgM antibodies are typically seen by day five.

“Not every symptom of dengue indicates the disease. The severity of symptoms also matters. Many patients might show negative dengue results but may still need close monitoring,” the doctors pointed out.

Doctors also flagged a concerning trend of patients trying to treat dengue and other infections on their own. Consultating Physician at Apollo Clinic Dr Mukesh Budhwani mentioned that dengue can progress to severe conditions like dengue haemorrhagic fever, or dengue shock syndrome, causing haemorrhage, organ failure, and potentially fatal outcomes. “Although early symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, and joint pain may appear manageable, they can swiftly worsen without adequate medical supervision,” he added.

Dr Budhwani explained that self-treatment not only postpones necessary critical care but also worsens the public health crisis, by heightening the risk of complications.

No need to declare dengue a medical emergency: Dinesh

Bengaluru: Acknowledging the rise in dengue cases in Karnataka, state Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao clarified that the situation does not yet warrant declaring a medical emergency. He assured that the health department is closely monitoring the dengue control efforts on a daily basis and has ensured that there is no shortage of beds or medicines. The Minister said that he consulted the technical advisory committee on dengue, which advised against declaring a medical emergency. He said that the dengue epidemic may persist for another two months and emphasised the importance of public awareness. “To combat the spread, the health department is conducting weekly campaigns to eliminate Aedes aegypti mosquito breeding grounds,” Gundu Rao said and added that the district officials have been directed to set up fever clinics and expand testing in areas with high dengue prevalence. Government hospitals are well equipped to provide necessary treatment, with adequate medication available, the Health Minister further reassured.

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