The absence of a diagnostic laboratory for detecting the swine flu influenza is only adding the miseries of patients in Jammu, where at least two people have died and 30 others have tested positive since February 12.
At presents, swabs of swine flu suspects are sent to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi, and the reports take nearly a week to come. At the moment, reports of around 80 samples are still pending with patients and also their families waiting in anguish. Test reports of two patients even came a day after they passed away.
The laboratory was decided to be set up in 2004 when patients tested positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Jammu. However, the plan remained just what it was - a plan.
In 2009, when swine flu made inroads in to J&K and three people died besides a 100 people testing positive for the virus, the then health minister Sham Lal Sharma took up the issue of opening a laboratory with the central government.
Out of 43 laboratories proposed to be set up in the entire country, two were sanctioned for J&K - one in Jammu and other in the Kashmir Valley. The Jammu lab was to be opened at the microbiology department of Government Medical College Hospital, Jammu, while Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) was to house the one in Valley.
The SKIMS lab did get functional eventually, but not the one in Jammu. Sources have told HT that the Jammu lab never opened as it was stuck up between the medical education ministry and the planning department.
With the swine flu threat looming large again, a fresh proposal for such a lab is being mooted again.
"We have made a proposal for a Biological Safety Level (BSL)-3 laboratory in Government Medical College Hospital, Jammu, at a cost of `6.28 crore… it will be submitted to the Centre," said the director health services, Jammu, Baljeet Pathania.
If the lab is set up or the proposal dies again as the H1N1 threat subsides will remain to be seen.