False-positive dengue results prove to be COVID in some cases

National Epidemiologist, Harmony Brewley-Massiah.

With both the COVID-19 pandemic and dengue fever simultaneously impacting the territory, data now shows that rapid testing for dengue fever can lead to false-positive coronavirus results and vice versa.

This is according to the National Epidemiologist, Harmonie Brewley-Massiah during a recent online panel discussion.

She stated that due to both viruses having similar reactions to the human body internally and externally, the rapid testing has, in some cases, resulted in inaccurate readings.

“I need persons to be very mindful because even though you’re confirmed with dengue via our rapid test, it does not necessarily mean that you may have dengue. Dengue and COVID-19 cross-react, meaning that you can get a false positive for one of the tests,” she explained.

“So you might have the symptoms, you might have muscle pain, headaches, which are similar to COVID, and we test you for dengue and it comes back positive. However, because again the antibodies cross-react, it may give you a false positive on the dengue, but you may indeed be positive for COVID,” she explained.

Dengue patients less likely to contract COVID-19

Brewley-Massiah also referenced reports from other countries, which showed that persons who contracted dengue were less likely to contract COVID-19.

“The regions in Brazil that had a higher incidence of dengue the previous year; what they found is that there was a slower growth trajectory as well as a number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in those regions that had dengue, and we are also seeing that coming out from other studies,” she stated.

BVI test for both

Brewley-Massiah said the reports have resulted in the BVI testing persons for both the viruses using the rapid test.

However, she said the BVI Health Services Authority will be taking an additional precautionary measure as they intend to commence sending samples of dengue test to the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad and Tobago for confirmation.

Noncommunicable diseases increase risk of dengue

The national epidemiologist further said persons living with noncommunicable diseases are more at risk at contracting dengue fever.

“If you are also immunocompromised or you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or hypertension, that also increases your risk of getting dengue. So really we’re seeing, again, how having these underlying chronic diseases increase your risk of having a severe form of another type of disease,” she stated.

The BVI’s latest known dengue fever statistics state that there are 69 confirmed cases of the virus in the territory and 36 suspected cases.

The BVI also presently has no reported active positive cases of COVID-19.

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