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Rapid Antigen Test: Patients misuse diagnostic kits to hide COVID, avoid hospitalization

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File photo: KM/Umar Ganie)

Srinagar: A 56-year-old female hushed up her COVID positive status after her family secretly procured a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Kit and got her screened at home three weeks ago.

However, after four days of screening, her symptoms worsened and she was rushed to the SMHS Hospital, Srinagar.


The female was morbidly obese. An individual is considered morbidly obese if he or she is 100 pounds over his/her ideal body weight, has a Body Mass Index of 40 or more, or 35 or more and experiencing obesity-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

“Even considering her co-morbid status, the family had themselves put her on a cocktail of antibiotics and bought an oxygen concentrator to treat her. This callousness and self-medication made her develop acute respiratory distress syndrome. Consequently, she had to be intubated,” the junior doctor at SMHS said.

Another horrifying example of self-medicating and attempting to manage COVID without seeking medical advice is of a 42-year-old male from Srinagar. Two weeks ago, he had arrived from Delhi by road.

After following the COVID protocols, he had returned home in sound health. However, after two days of returning home, he suddenly developed the symptoms of the virus.

“Without informing the authorities, his family brought a Rapid Antigen Test kit and he was confirmed positive at home. He sought to manage his symptoms at home. Within two days, his parents and wife also acquired the virus. Subsequently, the whole family had to be admitted to the hospital,” a resident doctor at SMHS said.

The two cases are an example of a disturbing trend where potential positives secretly procure Rapid Antigen Test Kits and seek to manage their condition without seeking medical advice. In the process, they put their lives and the lives of others at peril. What is more worrying is that these cases seem to go undetected and come to notice only when symptoms worsen.

The accuracy levels of RAT kits are such that if someone tests positive, they are considered a ‘true positive’ case. However, a negative result might be a false one, which is why those with symptoms are advised to go for an RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test.

An official at SMHS Hospital said the hospital performs around 60- 70 Rapid antigen Tests per day. Out of which, on an average, 10-12 are positive.

“We document each positive case and send the list to the Chief Medical Officer and later it gets incorporated in the UT positive list,” he said.

He, however, said that people are procuring kits on their own, and we have no way to know and document their status.

“The procurement of RAT kits should be monitored, how and where it is procured. A serial number should be assigned to each batch of RAT kits. At the time of issue, this serial number should be noted so that the issuing authority and procurer can be traced easily.” he said.

On the other side, a medical supplier wishing not to be named claimed the Rapid Antigen Test Kits cannot be procured by individuals.

“Only the government and selected private hospitals have been given permissions to conduct the RAT tests. Anyone seeking a test kit is directed to the nearest primary health center or hospitals, where the tests are done,” he said.

He added each kit costs around 600 rupees and can only be done by a lab technician.”

Nodal Officer Government Medical College Srinagar Dr. Salim Khan said all tests are uploaded on the ICMR portal.

“Whatever test results you see on the portal, comprises both RTPCR and RAT kits,” Dr. Salim said.