PCR machine was sent to Narayani Hospital without supplementary equipmentDoctors at the hospital say a larger space is required to set up a laboratory that can safely run tests without compromising the results.
A Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine provided by the Province 2 government to Narayani Hospital on Wednesday remains unused. According to the hospital administration, the machine has not come into use due to the unavailability of supportive equipment required to operate the machine.
Following the identification of three Covid-19 cases in Birgunj on Sunday, residents and people’s representatives raised their voices to start PCR tests in the district. But Dr Madan Kumar Upadhyay, medical superintendent of the hospital, said that health personnel cannot run tests in the lab with the PCR machine alone.
“The PCR machine needs other supportive equipment for operation. We haven’t received them yet,” said Upadhyay.
According to Upadhyay, four to five equipment, including biosafety cabinets, are required to operate the machine.
On conditions of anonymity, one of the physicians at the hospital said that the National Public Health Laboratory, where the PCR machine was kept, did not send a biosafety cabinet, centrifuge machine, vortex machine, pipette set and other equipment required to operate the PCR machine.
Additionally, doctors at the hospital say a larger space is required to set up a laboratory that can safely run tests without compromising the results.
“We need separate rooms to keep the specimens that bear different results. For now, we don’t have the capacity to do that,” said the physician.
“The hospital will not be able to bear the expenses of establishing a laboratory to conduct PCR tests,” said Upadhyay.
Currently, rapid diagnostic tests are being conducted on Covid-19 suspects in Birgunj. Swab samples of those individuals are being sent to the Coronavirus Testing Laboratory in Hetauda. According to Upadhyay, 44 swab samples have been sent to the Kathmandu-based National Public Health Laboratory for tests due to an overload in Hetauda’s lab.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.