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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mumbai’s Swine-Flu Testing Centre Is Besieged By People Wanting H1N1 Checks

Worried city panics over fevers, colds

While Doctors Try To Dispel Fears, 

Malathy Iyer & Shobhan Singh | TNN 

Mumbai: It was wear-a-mask day at Kasturba Hospital, Chinchpokli, on Wednesday as tens of families panicked and turned up to test themselves for swine flu. Each person walking in for the test was given a mask, with some of the hospital staff confessing that this was the first time that they themselves had used the protective barrier since swine flu survellience started in late May. 
    Kasturba Hospital witnessed none of the chaos of Pune as people waited for hours for their turn with the doctor. The hospital board line was flooded with calls for information about the disease. "It's panic out there,'' said a doctor, adding, "We got people who have no reason to worry about H1N1 turning up for tests.'' A Colaba resident came with her six-year-old son, who had a fever and cold. "He has been unwell for two days and is recovering, but I wanted to reassure myself,'' she told TOI. Asked if she or her son had travelled abroad, she replied no. 
    Hospital superintendent Dr Umesh Aigal said over 50 people had turned up for testing on Wednesday. "We have eight suspected patients in the quarantine facility,'' he said earlier in the day. Later in the evening, the number of patients in the 16-bed quarantine facility was 14. Given the rush, the civic administration has decided to also open up Ward 29 as an isolation ward. It will have 12 beds and begin functioning by Thursday morning, said BMC officials. However, state officials said that the Kasturba facility can be extended to 100 beds or even beyond. 
    A seven-year-old girl and her father were among those taken for testing and quarantine. "We returned a week ago after travelling to various cities in the US and my daughter has been unwell for five days,'' said her mother, refusing to be identified. A German resident who has been living in the city for a year was another suspected patient. "I travelled abroad quite regularly in the last few months. I have been running 
a fever for the last two days and thought I should get myself checked as a precaution,'' he said. 
    People came from as far as Kalyan to reach the Chinchpokli hospital. Saurav Kulkarni, 15, who was accompanied by his father, was running a lowgrade fever with a cough for 24 hours. "We wanted to confirm that it is nothing serious,'' said his father. The family had no history of recent travel. 
    A few had reason to panic. A young couple who had travelled to the UAE waited for over an hour to get tested. "My wife has been unwell for a few days and we thought it better to get tested,'' said the husband. According to Aigal, "Only those who have a fever after having travelled abroad, or who have come in contact with people who travelled abroad over the past week, should be considered as suspects for swine flu.'' 
    As the number of people wanting tests kept swelling, hospital deputy superintendent Dr R Kadam was overheard saying into the phone, "It's plain panic and nothing else.'' A constable on duty in the hospital premises confessed that he had not seen so many people turning up for a test. "The OPD has never been so crowded. No wonder I was asked to wear a mask.'' 

Haffkine begins testing 
Mumbai: Starting Wednesday, samples of throat swabs began to be tested at Haffkine Institute, Parel, for swine flu, said director Dr Abhay Chowdhury of Haffkine. "Samples are being collected at Kasturba Hospital and being sent here for testing,'' he said. 
    For a while, parallel tests on the samples will be carried out at the National Institute of Virology, Pune. "Our tests are being carried out in a bio-safety level II laboratory, but under bio-safety level III,'' he said. TNN

FEVER PITCH: Mumbaikars wait in queue to get their samples taken at the Kasturba Hospital, Chichpokli, on Wednesday. Samples are collected at the centre and sent to Haffkine Institute, Parel, or National Institue of Virology, Pune, for tests


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