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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We cannot underestimate the H1N1 virus, warn docs

But Approval For Real-Time PCR Machine Was Given By BMC Only Last Week


There has been no change in the condition of the 54-year-old woman who is fighting swine flu and its complications in the special ICU at Nair Hospital since November 14. "She has neither deteriorated nor improved,'' is all that the doctors are willing to say about the Mira Road resident who is on ventilator support. Considering that Mumbai has not had such a critically ill patient in the last month or so, the case is a timely reminder about swine flu and its potential to wreak a havoc. 
    Says chest specialist Dr Ashok Mahasur, "If the temperature dips suddenly, swine flu could certainly come back.'' Across the world, he says, there has been no relaxation in anti-swine flu measures. "We cannot be complacent or underestimate the H1N1 virus,'' Dr Mahasur adds. 

    The first wave of swine flu claimed 27 lives in the city, with 19 occurring in civic hospitals. Over 1,400 patients have tested positive for the virus so far, with over 65,000 screened so far. 
    The problem with swine flu, say doctors, is that its initial symptoms are hardly different from ordinary flu. "Only the critically ill will seek healthcare,'' says Dr Mahasur. But in the critical patients, it's important to get access to medication and healthcare at the right time. Is the city public healthcare system geared for an emergency? 
    Civic additional commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar, who is in charge of public health, believes the corporation's battleplan is ready. "We are in a position to increase, in a short span, the number of ICU beds from 10 at present to 30,'' she says. At present, only Nair Hospital has 10 ICU beds. But other major civic hospitals such as KEM and Sion can organise 10 ICU beds in a short while, say the officials. 
    The corporation has already imparted training to around 400 doctors and 4,000 anganwadi workers to detect the swine flu symptoms at the earliest. "In the first wave, we noticed that 71% of the victims were women and children. We trained anganwadi workers and they can be mobilised to reach out to the community in a short time,'' said Mhaiskar. 

    But the most important tool in the battle against swine flu would be the special laboratory to test swine flu samples at affordable costs. While the BMC had promised in August to set up the lab within a couple of months, the civic laboratory is likely to open only in December. Mhaiskar clarifies that it was only last week that the civic standing committee approved the expenditure to procure a real-time PCR machine. "The process of procuring the equipment has begun, but it will take another three weeks before the laboratory is ready,'' she adds.


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