Don’t rush to swine flu testing centres if you merely have a cold, urged the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Wednesday. The BMC is struggling to deal with the influx of people anxious to screen themselves for swine flu.
An indication of the panic was the number of calls to ‘108’, the flu helpline number.
“We got 1,350 calls on Tuesday and 1,000 calls since then till Wednesday afternoon,” said Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner (health).
“The first point of contact should be a family physician who would then refer cases for testing,” said Sanjay Oak, director of medical education and dean at KEM Hospital.
There was great pressure on testing facilities. The two laboratories in the state, National Institute of Virology (Pune) and Haffkine Institute (Parel), can deal with a maximum of 650 tests a day, said Additional Chief Secretary (Public Health) Sharwaree Gokhale.
“A person with mild symptoms must wait 48 hours for test results but in serious cases we get them in six hours,” said Oak.
The government is in talks with private labs like Ranbaxy, Religare and Metropolis, which have offered to help.
The government identified 22 private hospitals to treat swine flu cases, but civic authorities said a final decision could only be taken after the hospitals are inspected. “We expect to finalise 15 of them. We need 150 more beds, ” said Mhaiskar.
The government order to shut schools and multiplexes did not extend to malls. Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal met representatives of Ganpati mandals and appealed for low-key celebrations.
The order to shut schools and multiplexes had an unusual side effect — a sharp increase in the number of bookings for short holidays.
Cox & Kings claimed a 15 per cent rise in booking of leisure travellers for the weekend. “It is the first extended weekend since the summer holidays. People are making good use of low airfares and cheap packages,” said Thomas Thottathil, spokesperson, Cox & Kings.
Independent travel agents too are getting surprise bookings. International destinations like Dubai, Hong Kong and Thailand are among the favourites. Domestic bookings are largely for Goa, Lonavla and Kerala.
The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation issued a warning for the fourth time, asking airlines to distribute health cards to fliers from other countries.
Doctors and nurses exposed to H1N1 while treating patients are not as vulnerable as many think. Medics and support staff were taking adequate care to safeguard them against the virus.
“Since doctors are exposed to patients infected with the virus in small doses, their bodies sometimes begin to fight it and develop an immunity,” said Dr Lalit Kapoor, managing trustee of the Association of Medical Consultants.