Home / News / Business Of Life /  Covid symptoms mimic dengue, say doctors

Dengue, seasonal flu and covid-19’s shared characteristics are causing a storm of confusion for doctors and public health experts.

There have been instances of doctors diagnosing patients with dengue, getting the tests coming back positive for the vector-borne disease, starting treatment, and then realizing that the patient probably has covid-19.

“This is the season for flu in India. In the present circumstances, it would be best for doctors to suspect test people for everything—covid-19, dengue, H1N1. The symptoms are almost similar for both dengue and coronavirus. The serology test for other viruses can come back positive for dengue because of cross reactivity," said Dr R Giridhar Babu, epidemiologist and professor and head, lifecourse epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India.

One physician in Mangaluru diagnosed a 55-year-old man with dengue, and a blood test confirmed the prognosis. Treatment started, but the man didn’t improve and instead he began feeling breathless and his oxygen levels plummeted. A throat swab showed he was covid-positive. In Bengaluru, a 32-year-old woman was diagnosed with typhoid, but two days later as her condition deteriorated, a rapid antigen covid test was done and turned out negative. But, a throat swab done a day later showed covid positivity.

In some cases, antigen tests don’t always pick up covid-19 if the viral load is low, said doctors. “Covid-19 is a viral infection. There must be a multi-pronged approach since the symptoms can confuse even doctors," said health data analyst and surgeon Dr Pramukh Natesh.

Dr Nivedita Jayaram, lab director, Strand Life Sciences, Bengaluru, says people who have not stepped out of their homes for months are also testing positive for covid-19. “It’s intriguing. People have followed all norms and haven’t left home for month, yet they test positive with a high viral load. It does make me think that the virus is indeed airborne."

Last month, the World Health Organisation acknowledged that the Sars-Cov-2 virus, which causes covid-19, could be airborne after scientists in 32 countries said they had evidence to prove that floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.

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