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Upgrade test facilities fast, mumbai experts urge

The next phase of monsoon and the winter that follows will make the task of containing swine flu much more difficult if facilities in Mumbai and Maharashtra are not augmented, experts have warned.

india Updated: Aug 06, 2009 01:31 IST
Aditya Ghosh

The next phase of monsoon and the winter that follows will make the task of containing swine flu much more difficult if facilities in Mumbai and Maharashtra are not augmented, experts have warned.

“We are doing what we should have done 15 days ago. The biggest crisis will be to arrange for the quantity of Tamiflu that might be required given the population of Mumbai and India,” said Narendra Arora, senior epidemiologist and executive director of the Indian Clinical Epidemiology Network (IndiaCLEN).

“The government urgently needs to upscale the stock and talk to manufacturers for increasing supplies.”

Swine flu was now a localized infection in Pune and Mumbai with the virus spreading through human contact, he said.

“It is present locally in the environment and multiplying. Vigilance at airports will not prove of much help in containing the spread.”

Widespread testing facilities coupled with awareness at the individual level are a must to contain the spread.

The immediate task for the government was to start opening testing centres at private hospitals, because many in the vulnerable group are not acquainted with the government set-up, Arora said. “But the treatment should be monitored by the government,” he added.

The virus has killed over 800 people worldwide. It is expected to strike 30 per cent of the world population in its second wave towards the end of the year when the cool climate will help the virus propagate with more intensity.

“Hence, it must be monitored very closely,” Sunil Kumar, assistant scientist at the Delhi-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), said.

With flu pandemics historically coming in waves, often getting worse as they go, there is a great likelihood the next wave of the disease will be far more dangerous.

“Swine flu may come back in a more severe form,” Naresh Gupta, senior doctor at Delhi’s Maulana Azad Medical College, said. Medication for swine flu, however, should not be made available over-the-counter.

“This has a great risk of making the virus, which is responding to the medicine till now, might become resistant to it if people begin to use it indiscriminately,” Arora said.