The dreaded second wave of the H1N1 virus spared Mumbai this winter but with experts predicting a comeback, the civic body is not taking chances.
It has spent Rs 97 lakh to upgrade the laboratory at Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli so it can test throat swabs of suspected swine flu patients. The laboratory was inaugurated on Wednesday.
Civic officials said that the laboratory would be able to test any bacterial or viral infection including avian influenza.
With only two cases of suspected swine flu being reported per week, the laboratory is unlikely to witness a rush. “We don’t have a significant number of swine flu cases these days but we want to be prepared,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar.
The Haffkine Institute at Parel was the only one in Mumbai that could test for H1N1. At the peak of the first wave last September, majority of the 200-300 samples collected daily were sent to the overburdened National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune. The results often came after a week.
Now, the laboratory at Kasturba can test 21 samples in one shift and 42 in a day. The BMC has installed a Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction testing machine for H1N1 testing.
“The laboratory has been set up as per guidelines issued by the Centre for Disease Control and the technicians have been trained at the NIV,” said Dr Neelima Vaidya, scientific officer at the laboratory.
“We are testing 50 throat swabs at both Kasturba and Haffkine to see whether the results are accurate,” Mhaiskar said. The tests will be conducted for free for patients being treated at civic hospitals.