Which should it be – relief or anger?
First a confession – I must admit that the mere thought of contracting dengue again, was terrifying. I’ve had it once already – exactly 3 years ago. That was the first time I had been hospitalized since my birth, and believe me, although the hospital was very nice and the medical staff were very competent, the experience is not something I would like to go through again. I hate hospitals having spent many weeks with my mother (and, more recently, with my father) in several of them around the world.
But I had to find out whether what I had was dengue. So I went to a lab near my home and gave my blood for an IgM test (recommended test for dengue), CBC, LFT, etc etc. I figured i should do that on Saturday morning although I could hardly get out of bed, let alone walk or drive. I had to miss the National ICT Policy Roundtable which was jointly organized by P@SHA & BytesforAll. Anyhow, managed to go with my father’s driver to the lab. Deepset narrow veins means blood tests can be a painful experience. This one was no different but at least it was over with.
Then the wait began. All day as I dropped in and out of sleep, I wondered what the test would reveal. When I finally got the results at around 7.30 pm, I was depressed to see the IgM test (for detecting dengue fever) was positive. The CBC showed bacterial infections but it was the positve for dengue that scared the daylights out of me.
My doctor, who is available on SMS/Email/Mobile (you’ve got to love the guy for being technology savvy and for being available to patients at any time) told me to scan all the results and send them to him. Unfortunately I had taken my scanner to the office so I didn’t have it at home. I typed in some of the results and emailed them to the doc. He phoned back and told me not to worry. Asked some questions and told me to get another CBC done on Monday before I went in to see him at the clinic. If there’s one person I listen to in terms of my health, it is my doctor so I did exactly what he asked.
In the meantime, I had been going crazy (and driving others insane) with my desperate questions on Twitter and Facebook regarding dengue. Thanks to everyone for their advice and support.
Now for the anti-climax. I saw my doc yesterday and guess what? Although I tested positive for dengue, I don’t have dengue. Huh? Yes you heard/read correctly. Apparently, there have been a lot of false positives and false negatives in terms of the IgM test. My doctor tells me that because of the false positives and negatives a lot of people who have typhoid or other such problems are being treated for dengue, and those with dengue are being treated for something else.
In his opinion (and I agree with him 100%) the IgM test is unnecessary and expensive (costs around Rs. 1200). The best thing to do is get a Complete Blood Count (CBC) done. This costs Rs. 500 and several things within the CBC will indicate whether you have dengue or not. The Platelet Count is the first indicator – if it is normal, there is no way you have dengue. The Haemoglobin level, the Haematocrit level, the White Blood Cells are all clear indicators as well. And last but not least, the SGPT (Alt) would be shooting through the roof.
So I needn’t have tortured myself. I needn’t have worried. I needn’t have scared my family and friends. If only I hadn’t had the IgM test done, this could have been avoided. If I had been aware of all the indicators, as I am now, I would have known the reason for the high fever was not the poor dengue mosquito.
What I do have is Bacterial Pharyngitis and I am now under treatment for that. Another 3-4 days and I should be fine – and all this will be a faint memory. I am relieved no doubt but I am also angry. Why should anyone have to go through this sort of thing simply because of a test that is inaccurate, unnecessary and expensive to boot? If I had asked my doctor before having the test done, he would have simply asked me to get the CBC done. My mistake was to assume I knew what was needed before I saw the doctor. But what about the many doctors who prescribe the IgM test? Why don’t they know better?