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Rapid Result Dengue Test to be Expanded in Taipei

The Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday said it would expand the use of the NS1 antigen test, a rapid detection test for dengue fever, encouraging physicians to use the test if patients are suspected of having the virus.

Tainan Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases director Hung Yuan-pin (洪元斌) said dengue fever is mainly transmitted by bite from Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, with Aedes aegypti mosquito bites the main cause of the virus’ transmission in Tainan last year.

“The most common symptom of dengue fever is fever. Other common symptoms include headache, eye pain [behind eyes] and muscle pain, but symptoms might not be obvious at first,” he said. “Many people last year suffered gastroenteritis.”

Hung said the diagnosis of dengue fever can be delayed if doctors rely on clinical observations, because about 30 to 50 percent of people develop typical dengue fever symptoms, and people with Chikungunya fever or Zika virus might suffer from similar symptoms.

The rapid screening test allows doctors to confirm whether a person has dengue fever in about 15 to 20 minutes (traditional tests take about an hour), with an accuracy rate of more than 95 percent, he said.

According to current regulations, only medical professionals are allowed to perform the rapid screening test, which requires a blood sample.

Because of the seriousness of the dengue fever outbreak in Tainan last year, many people are going to hospitals asking for a rapid screening test even when they only have a cold, Hung said, adding that the test is only covered by National Health Insurance if a doctor considers it necessary.

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