CHENNAI: As Zika returned to public vocabulary after the first positive case was reported in Krishnagiri, private hospitals in Tamil Nadu are urging the State government to grant them a license for screening for the virus in their laboratories.
However, concerned after complaints that patients were often subjected to unnecessary and expensive tests during previous episodes of panic like swine flu and dengue, officials have not warmed up to the idea yet.
On Monday, Tamil Nadu announced that a 27-year-old from Natrampalayam in Krishnagiri district was the first reported case of Zika virus in the State.
“Once the news was out on media, some private hospitals contacted us asking for a license to screen for Zika, just like it was done in the case of swine flu and dengue. But if the license is granted, there is a possibility that some private hospitals might misuse it to fleece patients,” said a health department official.
Agreeing to this, Dr K Kolandaswamy, Director of Public Health, said the present situation did not warrant bringing in private hospitals.
“All fever cases cannot be screened for Zika, there is a protocol by the World Health Organisation which must be adhered to. Clinical diagnosis is more important before going for laboratory confirmation,” he pointed out.
“Unnecessary tests will only increase the cost of treatment for the patient,” added the official.
It was likely that patients could be asked to undertake the test out of panic, Kolandaswamy said, stressing that hospitals should not suggest Zika tests just like it would for dengue, chikungunya, leptospiroris and typhoid.At present, screenings are done at the Kings Institute in Guindy.
Samples are sent for Zika screening only if they have tested negative for other viral and bacterial fevers. Most importantly, dengue and chikungunya test results must be negative because these viral diseases have symptoms that are similar to Zika.
Assuring that there was no need to panic, Kulandaswamy noted how the sample from Krishnagiri was the first positive case in the State which came after over a year of screening and testing around 200 suspected samples.Mild fever, skin rashes usually accompanied by conjunctivitis, muscle or joint pain are some of the symptoms of Zika. The fever is usually mild and can last for two to seven days. Symptoms are similar to those of dengue and chikungunya.
All steps taken: Health minister
CHENNAI: Health Minister C Vijaya Basker on Tuesday told the State Assembly that the government had taken steps to prevent the spread of the Zika virus which was found in a person in a remote village in Krishnagiri district. He said health department officials were monitoring the situation across Tamil Nadu particularly in border areas. Responding to the queries raised by members, the minister said as soon the Zika virus spread was reported in other countries last year, the Tamil Nadu government increased surveillance and took preventive measures. Only because of serious monitoring was the person diagnosed and eventually cured. “The fever caused by Zika virus is milder than others like dengue and chikungunya. It is not life-threatening,” he added.