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Ordeal of people with ‘false’ COVID-19 positive cases in Kashmir

Representational photo: A lab technician checking the results of a COVID-19 test.

Representational photo: A lab technician checking the results of a COVID-19 test.  

In the din of war against the COVID-19 pandemic, Kashmir is witnessing the poignant tales of false positives, rounding up of families and empty houses.

Dr. Zahid Safdar, a dentist from Srinagar, is among the dozens who were ‘falsely’ shown positive by Srinagar’s leading laboratory at the Chest Disease (CD) hospital controlled by the Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar.

Also read | Kashmir halts sample collection after 5,000 test kits ‘mysteriously’ diverted to Jammu

“I accompanied an acquaintance whose mother was to be operated upon in the Bone and Joint hospital on May 29. On June 1, the health authorities asked me to go for a COVID-19 test as the patient had tested positive along with her son. I was also labelled positive by the CD hospital lab. I had my doubts but the experts suggested that the false positive for the COVID-19 test, RT-PCR, is very rare,” Dr. Safdar said.

His house and clinic in Srinagar’s Hawal area were pasted with the posters of COVID-19-affected and isolated as per the protocol. This panicked scores of the dentist’s patients he had treated earlier, who also started offering samples and, many of them, were also declared positive in the labs.

Weeks after, Dr. Safdar went for the IgG test, which detects an affected person’s antibodies developed following the infection.

“Surprisingly, my IgG titre was negative not once but twice. I was actually negative along with hundreds of others who got tested there. All my contacts, who had been declared positive by the same lab, were also having negative antibody titre,” the doctor said.

Dr. Safdar’s family members “also tested negative for coronavirus at another lab”. “How on earth can the staff [of the lab] be so callous with such a sensitive test, which has immense health and social repercussions. Allah is a witness to what I went through along with my family and the patients whom I had treated. All I can say is Allah save everyone from such a torment,” said Dr. Safdar.

Hospital sources said a paediatrician, a pulmonologist and his family from Srinagar were also shown falsely as “COVID-19 positive”, as per their IgG test reports.

“It was a traumatising experience. The aged relatives being quarantined and the houses being emptied in a jiffy. The family members were put up with other suspected contacts in far-off quarantine centres,” said another doctor, on the condition of anonymity.

Another resident, a cameraman by profession from Srinagar’s Bagh-e-Mehtab, said he had to live with the pain of gall bladder stone and infection, as the pre-operation mandatory sample showed him ‘falsely’ positive.

“Four days after the first test, my sample test was negative. What followed after my first report was stigmatisation. I was called up by the police station first and then by the Criminal Investigation Department [CID]. I felt like a criminal.

“Then a police vehicle made announcements in our mohalla. A poster saying ‘danger’ was pasted on the gate. My mother and father were shifted to Budgam for 14 days. Our house remained empty for many days. It’s an unforgettable ordeal,” the cameraman said.

There are growing number of such cases coming forward where IgG test is negative, raising fears of scores of false positives in Kashmir.

When contacted, head of department, microbiology, GMC, Dr. Anjum Farhana was not available for her comment.

However, another senior doctor, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Technically, reports could be false positive or false negative based on the sensitivity and specificity of the given test. A research is on about the prevalence of antibodies among the asymptomatic infected population.”

8,429 positive cases

Of the 8,429 positive cases, 3,042 are active positive and 5,255 have recovered. While 118 patients died in the Kashmir division, 14 died in the Jammu division taking the toll to 132, according to officials.

Of the 3,99,385 test results available, 3,90,956 samples have been tested as negative till July 5, 2020.

Around 2,96,591 travellers and persons in contact with suspected cases have been enlisted for surveillance, which included 40,149 persons in home quarantine. Besides, 2,07,446 persons have completed their surveillance period.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 8:41:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ordeal-of-people-with-false-covid-19-positive-cases-in-kashmir/article32004052.ece

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