UAE: Pakistani expat gets life-threatening diagnosis after visa medical screening

The 27-year-old was seemingly good health when he took the test to renew his residence permit


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Thu 24 Mar 2022, 10:37 AM

Last updated: Thu 24 Mar 2022, 10:56 PM

A tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis is the last thing that 27-year-old Hussain M expected when he took a medical test for a visa in the UAE.

A Pakistani civil engineer, he has been a resident since 2018 and was in seemingly good health when he took the test as part of his visa renewal.

However, doctors detected spots on his lungs during an X-ray screening, which was confirmed to be TB upon further analysis. While the diagnosis came as a surprise, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Hussain, who has now completely recovered from the disease.

TB is a serious infectious disease caused by a bacterium called mycobacterium tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organisation, TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. Each day, more than 4,100 people lose their lives to this disease. And for the first time in over a decade, TB deaths increased in 2020. TB is present in the UAE though at negligible rates.

“After testing my sputum, doctors informed me that I had tested positive for TB,” Hussain said.

To obtain a work/residence permit in the UAE, expats need to be free of all forms of communicable diseases such as HIV and TB. While renewing their residence visas, all residents have to undergo a TB screening. Those found with scars or active TB or found having drug-resistant TB will be issued a conditional fitness certificate and be issued a residence visa for one year. They will then have to undergo treatment in the UAE.

In Hussain’s case, he was transferred to Lifecare Hospital in Mussafah, where he spent 22 days in the isolation ward.

Dr Rakesh Kumar Gupta, deputy medical director, specialist pulmonologist, said Hussain had no symptoms of TB at the time of admission.

“TB is a chronic and slow disease. In the initial period, when the disease is less severe, there may not be any symptoms, but the patient can still infect others. In Hussain’s case, he was diagnosed with active TB while not displaying any symptoms. Active TB can be dangerous and requires proper treatment under supervision.”


Meanwhile, Hussain’s family members back in Pakistan were worried for him and urged him to return home for treatment. But Hussain was confident about the medical care offered in the UAE.

“I told them not to be worried as I was in safe hands. Thanks to the good doctors and the excellent healthcare facilities in the UAE, I was soon on my way to recovery. After the isolation period, a negative sputum test indicated that I was no more at risk for infecting others,” said Hussain, who happily returned to work after being discharged.

Hussain is glad that his diagnosis was done at an early stage.

“Thanks to the medical screening recommended by the UAE government as part of the employment visa formalities,” said Hussain.

TB symptoms to look out for

Dr Gupta added that TB can affect any organ if not treated on time and can be fatal.

“A patient with active TB may continue to infect others unknowingly. Early diagnosis and treatment are the only ways to cure the TB patient without any complications and control its spread in the community.”

Dr Gupta recommended that people keep an eye out for symptoms like a persistent cough that lasts more than three weeks, unexplained weight loss, night sweats, high temperature, tiredness and fatigue, loss of appetite, and in some cases, swellings in the neck.

Today is World Tuberculosis Day.

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