In Bokaro district, where the number of active cases is the fourth-highest in Jharkhand, there is an increasing confusion among residents between typhoid and Covid, which is often delaying timely treatment.
Dharmananth Ravidas (55) is among 36 Covid patients at the Sadar Hospital in Bokaro, but it was only a week ago that the resident of Gomia block was initially diagnosed with typhoid and tested positive for the same following complaints of fever and chills. But his oxygen saturation dipped within two days.
In the next room in the hospital, Ravidas’s son Manish has doubts. “I don’t understand why the doctor asked for a typhoid test initially when actually he had Covid. Luckily we got him oxygen support on time.”
Not everyone is as lucky. Forty kilometres away, in Peterwar block, Ram Swarup Aggarwal (57) was diagnosed with typhoid last month, but he was soon hospitalised in neighbouring Ramgarh as his condition deteriorated. He died on April 28 with the hospital mentioning the cause of death as Covid.
In Bokaro district, where deaths have more than doubled in the last one month and the number of active cases is the fourth-highest in Jharkhand, there is an increasing confusion among residents between typhoid and Covid, which is often delaying timely treatment. Doctors say this is due to lack of rural messaging and a fear of going for Covid test.
Anil Singh, head of Bundu gram panchayat in Peterwar, also pointed to the confusion at a recent virtual meeting with Chief Minister Hemant Soren. “Sir many people in the villages are dying of typhoid, not Covid.” He told The Indian Express, “Aggarwal was initially diagnosed with typhoid…Covid-19 test has been negative in a patient when he already had a typhoid report. So it is confusing.”
However, doctors say there have been several cases of symptomatic patients testing negative for Covid and the typhoid test lacking “specificity and reliability”.
For instance, the mother of JMM’s Peterwar block organisation secretary Satyam Prasad was initially diagnosed with typhoid and was receiving treatment for the same, the leader said. “The doctor got her CT scan and warned that she may be going through Covid…her condition deteriorated. We rushed her to a local nursing home for emergency treatment, but health workers ran away. It was a nightmare. Somehow a doctor friend put her on oxygen support, but she passed away.”
The nearest hospital to Prasad’s house, Peterwar Community Health Centre, has 12 oxygen-supported beds but only two are operational as 10 cylinders lack flow meters. Medical Superintendent Albela Kerketta said, “We have requested the BDO, and other doctors as well as I have personally tried getting the flow metres but could not.”
He said there is a rising trend of people going for typhoid tests. “People seem to be scared of going for Covid test and they find relief when the diagnosis is typhoid, but this is becoming fatal. There needs to be more messaging in the rural areas.”
Kumar Satish of ‘Diagnostic Path Lath Labs and XRay’, which conducted a chunk of total tests in Peterwar area, said, “On a daily basis we saw a lot of cases with typhoid. It is hard to come to a number. Now we have shut our lab because Covid-19 cases have increased.”
Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Arun Singh said, “Rising typhoid cases in the rural areas haven’t been discussed officially yet.”
MD of the National Health Mission, Jharkhand, did not respond to queries.
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