Emergency cases can arrive at any moment of one’s life. Such a case may be something as innocuous as a deep cut that may require stitches or as serious as a traumatizing car accident resulting in several casualties. For most of the general population, the word ‘emergency’ constitutes two broad categories.
The first category includes any incident or occurrence that causes external or internal injury/damage to the body. Such a happening is what we call trauma.
The second category includes any disease or illness that either occurs acutely or is chronic but presents with an acute exacerbation. This category also includes any discomfort or complication that may occur because of an illness or disease.
But there is another category that is unfortunately missed by most people. This third category constitutes emergency testing.
What is Emergency testing?
The term emergency testing refers to a single or series of laboratory tests that target high-risk individuals for the identification and diagnosis of any disease or health condition. Most common techniques involve blood analysis via centrifugation and/or culture and urine testing.
It is important to note that this third category is also an integral part that comes under the umbrella of the word ‘emergency’.
What are the most common scenarios that may require a frantic dash to the nearest medical and health facility for an immediate test and urgent diagnosis?
All those conditions and diseases that may have a serious adverse effect on the life of the patient as well as the people closely related to him/her require emergency testing.
Some common scenarios include:
For medical/paramedical/nursing staff/health care professionals:
Skin prick by a used/contaminated needle
Close contact with patients having a disease that spreads through air droplets such as tuberculosis.
Close contact with patients having a serious viral disease which spreads through blood, saliva, contact through open wounds, such as hepatitis, HIV, etc.
Mishandling of instruments or infected material during surgery or any invasive medical procedure
For non-medical people/general population:
Mishandling of unsterilized instruments
IV drug abuse
Close contact with people having a disease that spreads through air droplets such as tuberculosis
Close or sexual contact with people having a viral disease such as hepatitis, AIDS, etc or people who are carriers of such blood-borne viruses like hepatitis virus, HIV, etc.
Visit a high-risk area where there is an epidemic
Ingestion of any food substance that may be toxic or spiked with a drug
Animal bite such as a dog/raccoon bite to test for rabies
Unprotected sexual intercourse to test for a sexually transmitted disease
When a family member develops a contagious disease
One scenario that we shall be discussing in detail here is emergency testing for HIV.
What is HIV?
HIV is an abbreviation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus belongs to the retrovirus family which has a core of DNA and survives only in liquid medium. So, it may reside in, or transmit, via blood (most common), saliva, breast milk (from HIV-infected mother to her baby) and sexual fluids (semen and vaginal discharge). There is no available vaccine to protect us from HIV.
Once the virus enters a human body it may follow one of two courses. One, it may rapidly multiply, target the immune system and cause a multitude of symptoms. Two, it may remain dormant and not cause any symptoms at all for a period of anywhere between a few weeks to over 10 years. In the latter course, the affected person becomes a ‘carrier’.
How does HIV cause disease?
This virus causes AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. In this syndrome, the HIV virus targets the immune system cells, particularly T4 and T helper cells, and destroys them. The destruction of the immune system makes the patient completely vulnerable to all sorts of diseases. Now the affected person will develop a host of conditions which may start from minor ones like flu, weakness, and fever to many serious ones until and unless the virus is completely eradicated from the body. Ultimately, more often than not the patient succumbs to the burden of disease and dies.
However, this may not be the case at all for most patients because of two reasons. One, the virus remains dormant for a long time and the person is completely unaware that he is, in fact, a ‘carrier’; which means for all intents and purposes, he/she will appear to be perfectly healthy. Two, the increasing number of antiviral drugs that are specific for HIV eradication are extremely successful in treating the disease.
Some might say that the former case is much more dangerous. This is because unawareness of being a carrier will inevitably result in the person infecting his/her partner(s) via sexual contact and other people through sharing needles (for example heroine abusers) or even blood transfusions.
How to Protect Yourself from HIV
Suffice to say that it is of supreme importance that HIV carriers should be identified as early as possible. How can we do that? Simply by being vigilant. We should all protect ourselves from any mode of lifestyle and action that makes us at high-risk of getting AIDS. Second, if any such circumstance does occur that puts us in a compromised position, our first priority should be HIV emergency testing.
Where to go for Emergency Testing
If you are a resident of Texas we recommend one particular medical facility that not only provides emergency HIV testing but also caters to patients in the best way possible. This is the SignatureCare Emergency Center which has ERs located in Austin, Houston, Houston Heights, Memorial City, College Station and Montrose.
These emergency care centers are open 24/7. You can visit their website www.ercare24.com for more information.
Remember, prevention is better than cure. It is extremely important to keep both ourselves and our loved one’s safe by simply being vigilant. By getting tested, we can easily determine the course of our life and plan and act accordingly for a healthier future.
We have 24-hour emergency centers in Houston (Montrose, Heights, Memorial City, Copperfield, Bellaire, Cypress/FM 1960, and Westchase), Spring, Stafford, Mission Bend/Sugar Land, College Station/Bryan, Midland, Odessa, Texarkana, Pflugerville, Atascocita/Humble, Lewisville, Paris, Killeen and Austin, TX.
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