The state is experiencing a steep and early rise in dengue cases, with 4,246 cases reported this season so far. Amid the rising number of cases, the Punjab health department is facing a shortage of dengue testing kits. Due to this, testing of dengue samples has been severely hit in the state. Though, in some government testing labs, blood samples of suspected dengue patients have already been collected, samples could not be tested for confirmation in absence of kits.
Sources in the health department said NS1 Antigen ELISA Kits — which are used to detect dengue during the first five days of the onset of symptoms — were not available in many districts.
In Patiala, which is the home district of Punjab’s health minister Dr Balbir Singh, two of the total four dengue testing labs ran out of the kits on Tuesday, forcing the patients to undergo tests at private labs, which charge around ₹600 for the facility that is available for free at government labs.
Health minister Dr Balbir Singh, when asked about the shortage of dengue testing kits, said, “There is a shortage of dengue testing kits in few districts. We have already placed orders for more NS1 kits. As to IgG/IgM dengue kits, the delay in supply was from the Centre’s end.”
The minister further claimed that they had been able to control the spike in dengue cases. “The surge in dengue cases, which was witnessed over the past few weeks, has stabilised,” he said.
Dr Sumeet Singh, district epidemiologist, said, “A demand for 10 dengue kits has been made by the Patiala Government Medical College lab to the district health department. We have already forwarded their request to the state headquarters.”
Punjab health department officials confirmed that there was a shortage of NS1 kits. They said there was enough stock of IgG/IgM kits, which are used after five days of onset of dengue symptoms to check antibodies.
Another district epidemiologists, on the condition of anonymity, said, “There has been erratic supply of NS1 kits this season. There have been days when we didn’t have any kits to conduct tests.”
As per sources, the state health department, on September 8, distributed around 50 dengue kits to around 44 labs across the states. However, these kits have already been utilised over the past 10 days in many districts.
Notably, around 90 samples can be tested for dengue using one kit. “If there is a decline in rate of testing, then recording the actual number of daily cases reported is not possible,” said a senior official of the health department.