A 43-year-old resident of Khopoli became the latest victim of the deadly swine flu virus on Thursday, taking the toll of H1N1 deaths to 11 in Mumbai.
The victim was admitted to a private hospital in Mumbai on February 11 and was later shifted to a government hospital. According to a report by Greater Mumbai municipal corporation's public health department, the man died of Type I respiratory failure, and Bilateral Lobar Pneumonia in a case of H1N1.
Twenty new swine flu cases were recorded in various hospitals in Mumbai on Thursday, including one from outside the city. This has taken the total number of swine flu patients in Mumbai to 244, including 182 residents of the city.
Meanwhile, the cost of H1N1 tests at private laboratories could come down to Rs 4,000. Following the Centre's advisory, Maharashtra health minister Dr Deepak Sawant on Wednesday had met executives of SRL Diagnostic Laboratory (Mumbai's only private testing facility for swine flu) and asked them to reduce the cost from Rs 5,000 and Rs 4,500.
On Thursday, the minister asked for further cuts in the cost. "We are re-working the price for Maharashtra and the test could now be available at the private facility for Rs 4,000. We are waiting to hear from them," he said.
Experts, however, rued that the government had failed to provide the tests for free this time, unlike in 2009 when a global pandemic of swine flu hat hit. "This time, the price is taking a toll on patients, with no testing facility for free to the needy, and few free medicines," said Dr Shahid Barmare, consulting physician at Kohinoor Hospital. "I am getting patients who have common cold or mild cough, but are scared about having caught the virus and want to take the test," he added.
The health minister, however, said the state is providing free Oseltamivir tablets (the only cure for the fatal disease available; the other being Zanamivir, is not available in the country) to those who cannot afford it. He also denied the claims of shortage of tablets. "Until five days ago, the Maharashtra government had 8 lakh Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) tablets. While this is enough, we have ordered more stock," Dr Sawant said.
The medicine is available only with specific chemists in the city. "For an adult, 1 capsule of Oseltamivir (Tamilflu) of 75mg should be taken twice a day for five days after the disease is detected. Each capsule costs around Rs 35-Rs 40," said Dr Pradeep Awate, epidemiologist with the state health department.