‘5-day delay in RT-PCR test results dangerous’

Delay in starting covid treatment can turn manageable infection into a serious condition, say docs

Nearly two months after the second wave of the covid pandemic hit Bengaluru, patients say there is a five-day delay in RT-PCR test results. This is not only causing delays in starting the treatment, but some people are starting their treatment even without seeing the test results. And then, some say, there is a VIP section to fast-track test results, for a lucky few.

Prashanth (name changed), a volunteer with the BBMP, said that he had symptoms of covid and decided to take the test at a PHC in RR Nagar zone. He waited for 24 hours and when he did not get the results, he consulted a doctor and started medication. He said, “I was not sure whether to start the treatment or not without getting the results but my doctor said it looked like I had covid. I realised later that I had done the right thing because I got my results after five days and I was positive. If I had waited for five days, my health would have deteriorated. After 14 days, when I went to the PHC again to take the second test, I informed them about the delay in the test results and how it could cost a person’s life. Luckily, I met an acquaintance at the PHC who informed the staff there to send my test results to the ‘VIP list’. He explained that the swab samples in the VIP list go to labs that work 24/7 and the results are given in 24 hours. The results of other swabs take five to six days. To my surprise, my results came within 24 hours this time.”

Prashanth added that the first five days were crucial to ensure the infection does not get worse. Without a test result and a BU code, it was difficult to get oxygenated beds, he said.

Kusuma (name changed), a resident of Kavalbairasandra, gave her swab samples last Wednesday and is still waiting for the results. “I have fever and body pain and I don’t know if it is covid or not. The RAT

test result was negative. But since I have all the symptoms, and I don’t want to risk infecting my family, I have isolated myself for a week.”

Dr Trilok Chandra, IAS, Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare, Karnataka, said that he would look into the issue and check with BBMP.

Bangalore Mirror reached out to the testing Nodal officer, Dr Vaishnavi, who did not respond. A few days ago she had claimed that the results were being announced within 17 hours but many who had taken the tests received their results only after four days.


Effects of delayed test results

Dr Gunasekar Vuppalapati, CMD GVG Invivo Hospital said that one should not wait for the RT-PCR test results to start treatment. “A doctor must decide, based on the clinical condition of the patient. With a delay in treatment, the viral load in the body will continue to increase. If the treatment is not initiated at an early stage, it causes devastating damage to the entire lung which might turn a mild infection into a severe condition. What could have been cured with home isolation will get to the point where the person might have to be hospitalized and in some cases, the infection worsens to the level that even the best medical supervision and ventilator support doesn’t help.”

Dr Suri Raju V, Medical Director, Regal Multi-Speciality Hospital said, “Patients should not neglect their symptoms. They must seek help from a doctor even while waiting for their test results. Delay in treatment could mean a longer stay in a hospital. Patients with comorbidities like Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and cancer etc, must get tested as soon as they observe even the slightest symptoms of covid. Negligence could prove fatal.”

Don’t self-medicate

Doctors are advising against self-medication. “Many people are coming to us with gastroenterology issues, due to consumption of antibiotics and antiviral tablets over an extended period of time,” said Dr Gunasekar.

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Sagar Biswas

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