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Hospital not a must for all cases

india Updated: Aug 14, 2009 02:18 IST
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Almost half the swine flu patients in Mumbai did not require hospitalisation. Of the 161 people who tested positive for the H1N1 virus so far, 58 did not need to be admitted and 41 have been discharged.

Those who recovered, did so on their own or after being administered the anti-viral drug Tamiflu at home.

Three more persons from the city tested positive for swine flu on Thursday.

The civic body said the virus was not as dangerous as it was made out to be.

But the panic was making it difficult to manage the outbreak and was putting unnecessary pressure on the medical infrastructure.

Haffkine Institute, Mumbai’s only swine flu testing facility, is reeling under a backlog of 1,800 samples. It has tested only 264 so far.

“We have installed a new machine and our capacity is now 80 per day,” said Abhay Chaudhary, director, Haffkine. “However, if samples pour in at this rate we will have to restrict the numbers.”

“In an epidemic, it is okay to give Tamiflu even if there is only clinical suspicion,” he said. “Only patients who need to be admitted because of breathing difficulty or other complications should be tested.”

The municipal corporation is now trying to build “blanket immunity” by giving Tamiflu to anyone who shows swine flu symptoms.

“Even in the UK, if a patient has the symptoms, the doctor immediately puts him on Tamiflu. We can’t wait for the test report,” said Executive Health Officer Dr Jairaj Thanekar.

It is not harmful to take the drug even if you test negative for H1N1, said Sanjay Oak, director of medical education and KEM Hospital dean.

“Ten tablets of Tamiflu will not harm you,” Oak said.

Chaudhary said people would not develop resistance to the drug if they complete the five-day course.

“Even if you feel better in two days, complete the regimen,” he said.

Drug firm Roche India has donated 50,000 packs of Tamiflu to Maharashtra. The company has sent 25,000 packs to the state government and the rest will be delivered.

Another reason for the panic was the gap in information and the propensity of people not to consult their family doctors.

A week ago, the civic body announced that it would send specific guidelines to private doctors, but doctors are yet to receive it.

Dr Lalit Kapoor, of the Association of Medical Consultants, said that due to lack of clarity, doctors were “getting defensive” and sending all patients for tests.

“We requested doctors to refer only those cases who they feel needed to undergo the test. We have a set-up of medical officers of health at the ward-level to handle people’s queries,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar.

Friday was declared a holiday for all government offices in Mumbai.

Schools, colleges, private coaching classes and cinema halls were shut on Wednesday.

Many employees extended their holiday, by applying for leave till August 19, which is Pateti, making it a six-day break.