Cost of Chik-V test a deterrentSunday, September 28, 2014
BY OPAL CLARKE Observer writer email@example.com
The cost of the test to confirm the presence of chikungunya is a deterrent for people who might have the virus as some are unwilling to pay up to $8,000 to get it done.
Latest figures from the health ministry put confirmed cases of Chikungunya (also referred to as Chik-V) at 35, with over 300 suspected cases in at least seven parishes. But checks by the Jamaica Observer have found that many Jamaicans were opting not to pay for the tests to confirm if their illness was due to Chik-V, because of the cost which some find to be exorbitant, while others insist it is not necessary.
Cost of the test ranges from $3,600 at Andrews Memorial Hospital to $8,000 at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). Doctors at Medical Associates Hospital said that many patients are choosing not to do the test due to the cost associated and many even see it as irrelevant.
A patient Medical Associates Hospital, who asked not to be named, said: "I don't see the sense in doing an expensive test and there is no specific cure. If the Government wants to know, let them pay for the test."
Another who went to the UHWI after experiencing symptoms of the virus, said: "I just can't afford it, so I have to ride out this one."
Opposition spokesman on health Dr Ken Baugh said the Ministry of Health could not afford the cost, neither could the patients, nor the laboratories. Doctors were not bothering to request the test "simply because it isn't necessary", Baugh told the Observer. "People just take Panadol for the pain and fever, and Allegra for the itches and just wait for the virus to run its course. They can't afford the test."
One patient said her doctor told her that she didn't need to do the test because it would take a while for the results to come back. By then, the virus would most likely have already left her body.
Meanwhile, there is misconception about how Chik-V is spread in at least one Kingston 13 community. Several residents in inner-city Greenwich Town, which was hard-hit, insisted that the virus is contagious. "As soon as one of us get it another one get it too," one resident said.
An entire household was affected in the community with symptoms of the virus. One family member said: "This is definitely Chik-V, as the doctor at Public (Kingston Public Hospital) said mi have all the signs."
Symptoms of the Chik-V include rashes, swollen lymph nodes, joint pains, headaches, fever and overall weakness of the body.
Dr Baugh, responding to the 35 confirmed cases mentioned in a national broadcast by Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, said: "I hope he is not still quoting that figure because it is so obvious that almost every household in the affected parishes is being affected... it is a ridiculous figure... I don't see how he could be holding out on the fact that this is an epidemic."
Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the alpha virus, Chikungunya virus. The disease is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito. Chik-V is spread when the female Aedes mosquito bites an infected person and then bites other people.
The most common symptoms of Chikungunya are high fever, severe joint pains, backache, headache, muscle pain, and rash.
Although it does not often result in death, joint pains and stiffness can last for months and even years. It may become a source of chronic pain and disability, resulting in the individual being unable to attend work or school. It has been said that infants, elderly, women in the advanced stage of pregnancy, and persons with underlining medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are at risk for the more severe symptoms.
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