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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Two More Cases In Mumbai, Schools On Alert

City has no cause to fear: Officials

Two More Cases In Mumbai, Schools On Alert, Haffkine To Start Testing, Isolation Facilities At Kasturba Strengthened

Malathy Iyer & Sanjeev Shivadekar | TNN 

Mumbai: The city, health officials say, has no cause for concern vis-a-vis swine flu. "If there is a spurt in the number of cases, then we will see,'' health officials told reporters. "If needed, the Epidemic Diseases Act will be invoked in other places in the state as well,'' said Shingne. 
    According to additional chief secretary (health) Sharvaree Gokhale, "The act will empower the collectors to take certain actions. For in
stance, if need be, they can declare a holiday in schools where there are suspected cases. They can also cordon off areas in their jurisdiction and implement travel restrictions as a precautionary measure to avoid spread of the disease.'' 
    At a press conference held after a high-level meeting of health officials, the state health minister unveiled a new strategy to contain swine flu. For one, every district hospital has been instructed to set up an isolation ward to quarantine suspected swine 
flu cases. Secondly, a lot of the health staff has been trained to handle such cases. 
    In Mumbai, the state officials agreed to allow testing of samples at Haffkine Institute, Parel. So far, only a handful of centres across the country, including the National Institute of Virology (Pune), was allowed to test samples of H1N1. A new quarantine centre has been identified in Pune at the Aundh Civil Hospital to tackle the sudden rush of cases. 
    Civic health officials have begun visiting schools with dos and don'ts about swine flu. "Our officials will request the school authorities to put up these points on the notice board. We should be able to cover most private schools by Wednesday afternoon,'' said BMC executive health officer Dr J Thanekar. 
    While these new measures are being implemented, the state is firm about an old stipulation: the anti-viral medication will be available only at public hospitals, which at the moment are the only ones certified to treat H1N1 cases. Gokhale also made it clear that Tamiflu, the only drug that has been effective against swine flu, would be distributed only through public hospitals. "There is a scientific reason for not allowing it to be sold at the local chemists. If people starting popping these pills, the body will eventually build up a resistance to it,'' she said. 
    Gokhale stated that while the government would think about roping in private hospitals to handle cases at a later date if needed, there was no shortage of manpower in the public hospitals. "We are deploying additional doctors and medical staff at various hospitals as per the requirement,'' she said. 
    Reacting to allegations that the state had not done enough to tackle swine flu, Gokhale stated that as precautionary measures over ten lakh passengers had been screened at Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad air
ports over the past two months. "I refute all charges of inaction,'' she said. "The government has done its best. The Pune girl died due to negligence of the hospitals she was admitted to. Had she been admitted to the government hospital at the appropriate time, she would have certainly been saved.'' 
    Replying to questions on 
why Pune had witnessed a sudden rise in cases, Shingne said, "Due to the presence of the IT industry in Pune, there is a steady movement of people in and out of the city. Moreover, due to warm weather in March and April, there were no cases of swine flu. But the cooler conditions in the rains has meant a spurt in the number of cases.'' 
Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai 
    Naidu Hospital & Aundh Civil Hospital in Pune 
    State Civil Hospital in Satara 
ADVISORY: If a person who has travelled abroad, been in close contact with a person who has travelled abroad or visited highrisk health centres, develops swine flu-like symptoms within seven days, it is prudent to undergo a check for H1N1 
When 27-year-old Ajay (name changed) went on a trip to Singapore, little did he know that it would cost him more than a lot of money. On returning to India, Ajay was picked up at the Mumbai airport as an H1N1 suspect. 
    He was admitted to Kasturba Hospital, Chinchpokli, on July 22 after his throat swab tested positive. He was discharged nine days later after being completely cured, but says he will be unable to forget those nine days all his life. "That's not because I was suffering from a physical illness, but because of the utter boredom,'' he says. 
    Ajay was kept in an isolated cabin in the hospital and complete care was taken to see he didn't come in contact with anyone. "No visitors were allowed at all. The staff used to enter my room fully covered and minimal contact was made with me,'' he recounts. Two days after admission, he went through the test again and tested positive. "Finally, when I tested negative, I was discharged with medicines,'' he says. 
    Ajay is an example for all those who think swine flu can be deadly. "I am completely fine now. I was not scared as I had read about swine flu and knew it was curable. Plus, the doctors who came in every morning kept up my morale,'' he says. 
    Pratibha Masand | TNN 

EPIDEMIC DISEASES ACT The state invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, in Pune and Satara districts. Here's what it means: 
The state has the power to act to control and prevent any epidemic or spread of the epidemic in the districts. It may authorise any of its officers or agencies to take such measures if it feels the public is threatened with an outbreak 
    A person who is inspecting is empowered to determine the procedure and the authority who will take responsibility for all expenses incurred in compensation, travel, temporary accommodation, segregation of infected persons and so on 

The H1N1 swine flu is targeting teens and young adults, unlike regular flu which usually strikes hardest at the elderly and very young. The information is from the United States' Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 
    Most hospitalised patients had at least one underlying medical condition that put them at higher risk for influenza and its complications. The most common conditions were chronic lung disease, conditions linked to immunosuppression, chronic heart disease, obesity and pregnancy 
Cover your nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing | Avoid crowds if suffering from symptoms of cough and cold | Wash hands with clean 
water and soap and dry them | Take adequate rest | Eat a healthy diet with foods containing Vitamin C | Drink plenty of water | Don't smoke 
DON'T PANIC | The H1N1 strain found in Indian continues to be "mild and has not changed so far'', says A C Mishra, director of the National Institute of Virology, Pune. "There is no need to panic,'' he said


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