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Posted On: 11 March 2020 12:02 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 09:10 am

Singapore Scientists discover new coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms - dengue fever

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Scientists in Singapore have discovered new symptoms of the coronavirus (COVID-19) – dengue fever.

How did scientists in Singapore discover this?

Two coronavirus (COVID-19) patients in Singapore that tested positive for dengue, were later found to not have the the mosquito-borne disease when their repeated tests came back negative.

Both of the patients tested positive for dengue and were treated as dengue patients, until it was discovered that they had contracted the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Case 1

A 57-year-old Singaporean woman visited the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital on Friday 13 February 2020. She had a mild cough, fever, diarrhoea and muscle pain. After being tested, it was determined that she had dengue. She was discharged to be treated as an outpatient. In her second visit to the hospital on Sunday 15 February 2020, she was admitted in a general ward as a dengue patient because her symptoms had become worse.

Three days after she was admitted, on Wednesday 18 February 2020, she had difficulty breathing. After undergoing some tests, it was discovered she had the coronavirus (COVID-19). Doctors repeated the dengue test and it came back negative. She was immediately sent to isolation and the other patients in the ward have since also been quarantined.

The Ministry of Health in Singapore has said that this lady was not misdiagnosed with dengue because her symptoms and laboratory results were consistent with dengue.

Case 2

A 57-year-old man visited a hospital in Singapore with a fever, cough and a low blood platelet count. When he was tested for dengue, the results came back negative and he was discharged. When his symptoms became worse, he visited another clinic. He was tested again for dengue and this time, the results came back positive. He was then sent to the hospital with dengue, a worsening cough and trouble with breathing for further treatment.

He underwent more tests and it was discovered that he had the coronavirus (COVID-19), but when the tests for dengue were repeated, the result came back as negative.

What does this mean?

The details of the above two cases and what was discovered as a result, were published in a paper in 'The Lancet Medical Journal' last week (4 March), authored by a group of doctors from the National University Health System, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, polyclinics and the Environmental Health Institute.

In the paper, the doctors wrote:

“The doctors said the two cases highlighted the importance of recognising false-positive dengue results in patients with COVID-19. Those with dengue typically have a fever and a rash, but unlike COVID-19 patients, they do not have such respiratory symptoms as a runny nose, cough or sore throat.”
"Failing to consider COVID-19 because of a positive dengue rapid test result has serious implications not only for the patient but also for public health."

How is dengue different from coronavirus (COVID-19)?

People who are diagnosed with dengue usually have fever and rash, but don’t have any respiratory symptoms. Respiratory symptoms associated with the coronavirus disease include cough, runny nose, sore throat and difficulty in breathing.

Global infections with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) which first appeared in central China at the end of last year, exceeded 110,000 infections, and more than 3,800 deaths. The majority of cases were recorded in China, but the disease has spread rapidly in different regions of the world including Qatar where, as of today, there are 24 confirmed cases.

Sources: Business Times and Straits Times