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Times of India
18 November 2010
By Saikat Ray
Kolkata, India

KMC To Offer Free Dengue Test To Poor
Elisa test for the diagnosis of dengue will soon be free for city’s poor. This initiative by Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) is expected to help thousands of slum and street dwellers to come forward and avail of the facility, which otherwise costs around 500 at a private laboratory.

To begin with, KMC will buy five testing machines for five of its health centres across the city. "We have decided to install the equipment in northeast, central and south Kolkata, Behala and Jadavpur. Poor patients with symptoms of dengue will be tested free of cost at these centres once the facility is available from January next year," said Atin Ghosh, KMC’s member, mayor–in–council (health).

A group of KMC laboratory technicians are already being trained to handle the equipment for Elisa test. "Each equipment costs around 3.5 lakh," sources in the KMC health department said.

In 2006, the department tied up with a few private hospitals and laboratories to offer free Elisa tests for suspected dengue patients after five people had died of the dreaded disease in the first eight months of the year. However, ties with these hospitals and laboratories were snapped a couple of years ago after civic authorities found fault with their testing process.

The civic body now wants to offer the facility without charging any fee from poor patients. This apart, the KMC health department will arrange tests for platelet count at all 132 malaria clinics across the city. The platelet count in the blood of a suspected dengue patient is said to be a key test to diagnose the disease.

Sekhar Ghosh, a general physician, said if the platelet count of a suspected dengue patient drops to less than a lakh, the person should be treated immediately and with care. Normally, a healthy man or woman should have 2–2.5 lakh platelets in blood. The platelet count test in a standard laboratory costs around Rs 200. "The arrangement for platelet count will be available in all KMC health units from December onwards," a senior official of the health department said.

These facilities are being developed by the department following a recent caution from the Union health ministry that cases of dengue and malaria might increase manifold in the next few years.

Besides, as part of the overhauling of the department, civic authorities have decided to start blood sugar test free of cost at all KMC health units spread over 141 wards. "The reason behind introducing blood sugar tests is provide relief to a large number of people who can’t afford to pay bills for such processes. We will offer this facility to all at KMC health units in their respective wards," the MMiC said on Wednesday.

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