As swine flu broke out after 2009 during this prolonged winter, the state health department was caught off guard.A study published in the journal Lancet-Respiratory Medicine in 2014 point to the evidence that Tamiflu is only 25% effective against the H1N1 virus, and anti-viral treatment initiated within 48 hours of developing the symptoms halved the risk of death, as compared with late treatment. However, of the 10 patients who tested positive in the district, six died, and even though the deaths had a pattern, the health department missed it.
Similar deaths reported from the other parts of the state indicate the shortage of equipment for fighting the disease. The first victim in the district was Sandeep Kumar of Nakodar. His wife, Pammi, said he had beem moved to the Nakodar Civil Hoapital first and then NIMS, Jalandhar. Doctors referred him to Dayanand Medical College, Ludhiana, where on January 30, his swab samples were collected for testing.
Sandeep died on January 31 and the samples tested positive the next day. The doctors, thus, missed the 48-hour window in which his life could have been saved. The health department also failed to launch an awareness programme until the sixth death in the state.
On February 5, Charan Kaur of Lohian Khas became second to die in the district. She had been moved to Patel Hospital on February 2, and by then, the health department had not put the Government of India guideline into action to start the first line of treatment immediately on spotting flu-like symptoms.
Charan Kaur's positive-test report arrived at Patel Hospital on February 4, 48 hours after her admission. The anti-viral treatment initiated then came too late, and she died the day after. "Even the WHO (World Health Organisation) has guided doctors to respond quickly with swine flu treatment on spotting chest infection," said civil surgeon Dr RL Bassanl.
In all this hullaballoo, the families of the patients continued to claim delay in treatment and admission. Data released from the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project department on Wednesday suggested that of the six victims, five had died after 48 hours of admission. All except Gurdeep Singh (70) were below 55.