Local doctor tests for coronavirus

Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
Dr. Ramesh Kumar has been doing COVID-19 Rapid tests for over a week now.

OKEECHOBEE — Dr. Ramesh Kumar of the Big Lake Cancer Center has been performing the Rapid COVID-19 test for over a week now, and said right now, this test is the “next best thing.” The test is not FDA approved, but it can be used when your doctor authorizes it. It takes a drop of blood and 15 minutes to get results.

In a perfect world where we didn’t have to wait three or four days or even a week or more the other test would be better, but there is a huge backlog with the regular tests, he explained. For example, Quest Labs has 160,000 specimens they have not been able to test, and they are just sitting on the shelves. There is a clinic in Tradition that has set up a drive-thru test site, and they are one week behind.

Dr. Kumar said that when you have a problem like this, you can go about it one of two ways. “It’s like being in a battle. You can identify the enemy, which is the virus. That’s the best way but also the hard part. That is what the tests everyone is doing are looking for, the enemy. It’s easier to detect the soldiers who are fighting against the enemy. When the enemy shows up — the virus, your body deploys front-line soldiers called IgM, That’s the first one on the front lines. So, if you look for that soldier, it will tell you if the battle has started. If IgM is there, he is battling the infection. That is the only reason he would be in the body. It is the only infection he fights.

Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
The COVID-19 Rapid rest takes 15 minutes and involves a pinprick to obtain a small blood sample.

The second line soldier, at the back, is IgG. “He’s ready! Oh my gosh. You know what, because IgM is going to destroy the enemy, but IgG will be ready if anyone else comes in,” said Dr. Kumar. “He is in training. He is ready, but he is not being deployed. A few might be deployed. If you see IgM and IgG, there is an active battle going on.”

Another possibility, he explained, might be that they test and only find IgG soldiers. This means the battle is done. “You have a garrison full of soldiers, and if the enemy shows up, they are gonna whoop his ass,” he said. This shows immunity.

The best situation, he said would be if they could isolate a population of patients showing only IgG. There is a good chance they can go in and do whatever they need to do without being afraid of reinfection. It’s possible, he said, because we are still learning about this virus, but it is unlikely.

“If we have a group of people who are IgG positive only, they can work together without having to worry about infecting anyone else,” he said. They have all already been there and belong to the IgG group.

If you have IgM only, which means there is an active infection, that’s when you would want to be extra careful even if you are not showing symptoms yet. “Fifty percent of the patients do not have symptoms, and that is a disaster with this virus. You have no idea you have it and are spreading it to others. If we can isolate this, and if it is positive, and there is no IgG, then you need to be extremely careful and watch for symptoms.”

Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
According to the test result, the subject does not have any IGM or IGG soldiers in her body.

When you are aware of the meaning of the tests, it helps you to make decisions. If someone plans to just quarantine yourself out on the Prairie until it’s over, then they don’t need the test, he explained. The test is more for those who will be working on the front lines and want to know, then it is available. Another thing to consider is that when you do the test, the results are true for today, but you could be exposed right after you leave his office and tomorrow the results would be different.

Dr. Kumar and his staff are testing themselves weekly and are still wearing masks and gloves and taking all the normal precautions.

If you would like to be tested, his office is located at 1115 N. Parrott Avenue and the phone number is 863-467-9500. Dr, Kumar is charging $99 for the tests. He said he heard they are charging $150 on the coast but he just wants what the tests cost him. He isn’t trying to make any money off the tests.

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