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Last Updated: Oct 11, 2012 - 10:22:56 PM
India Healthcare Channel

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Swine flu treatment more important than testing: Government

Aug 14, 2009 - 5:42:44 PM
The official was not in favour of replicating the Mexican model of dealing with swine flu. 'What you heard was that everything was shut down - public transport, offices, banks were closed. But what you did not hear is that there people came out onto streets to protest and there was a greater risk.'

 
[RxPG] Treating flu-like symptoms is more essential than testing for the influenza A - virus, a health ministry official said here Friday as the death toll from swine flu rose to 22. While appreciating Maharashtra's efforts to contain swine flu, he said more screening centres would be set up in Pune.

'Now we have seen that testing is not essential before administering treatment. People should get treatment and recover first...that is our aim. Currently 34 people in Pune are undergoing treatment for the flu,' said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, health.

'The way the public health administration is working here is extremely good,' said Chawdhry, who is on a visit to this city that has reported 14 swine flu deaths so far.

'I must clarify there is a lot of hype about the N95 masks. Even Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad clarified on Thursday evening that the masks are not for the general public. Yes, people who are on treatment may need the masks.'

He stressed that the artificial demand for masks should come down. Talking about the screening facilities at Pune, the joint secretary said: 'There will be many more screening centres set up in Pune soon.'

Asked if clusters were developing in the city, he replied in the negative. 'We feel the stage when cluster screening is required is over?The entire city needs to be covered.'

'We have to look at two things - the geographical spread and the severity. While the geographic spread is a global phenomenon and India is no exception, the severity here is not much yet,' he said.

He pointed out that even the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta have said that the virus is still in the moderate stage and has not mutated.

'We advise people to stay at home and that is the only way to ensure the spread is controlled. In cases of co-morbid complications like heart or respiratory distress - that is when treatment and hospitalisation is needed.

'Casualties are increasing...but I won't say that the killing by virus is on a large scale.'

He also advised against taking Tamiflu without medical supervision. 'Only people with symptoms should take the medicine for two days and once they feel better stop the intake. But the medicine needs to be given over a fixed course and if not the body develops resistance, that is why we prefer that the medicine is not given without medical supervision.'

On Friday, 44-year-old Prabhakar Beragar died of swine flu in a Pune hospital. With this the total swine flu death toll rose to 18 in Maharastra. Over 600 people have been infected by the virus, but most of them have recovered.

Chawdhry said: 'The number of indigenous cases are still high here. The infection has spread and that is not unusual. One can't restrict the flow of air. But the administration has done a very good job.'

'It is easy to blame the administration. The screening at airports is not foolproof. In many cases, the person may have the virus but won't show symptoms. They are given handouts and told to call on helplines if they notice symptoms. Here, only 20-25 percent people phoned back and there were some who didn't and so spread it to the community. To control the situation soon is crucial. Data that I saw this morning has shown a downward trend in cases,' he said.

Asked if the army should be called to the city, Chawdhry said: 'This is not a biological warfare. We don't need any intervention from the armed forces now. We are discussing and if there is a need the armed forces medical services may be called on.'

The official was not in favour of replicating the Mexican model of dealing with swine flu. 'What you heard was that everything was shut down - public transport, offices, banks were closed. But what you did not hear is that there people came out onto streets to protest and there was a greater risk.'

He advised suspected swine flu patients to stay at home and not allow friends to come home to enquire about their health.




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