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Swine flu samples up 400%

Rush of people with ordinary flu to get tested delays results and increases risks of infection, reports Sanchita Sharma.

health-and-fitness Updated: Aug 09, 2009, 01:02 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times

Multitudes of people with ordinary flu are rushing to hospitals to get tested for swine flu.

“Everyone down with seasonal flu wants to be tested for swine flu, irrespective of travel history or contact with a positive case. From getting 30 samples each day just a week ago, Delhi labs got over 200 on Saturday,” said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, Union ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

“You and your child have higher chances of getting infected while waiting to get tested at a hospital. It's important to think before blindly heading to get tested,” said Dr Subhash Arya, head of paediatics and adolescent medicine, Delhi’s BLK Memorial Hospital.

Knee-jerk reactions are not helping. After Symbioisis, two other Pune colleges — Sir Parshuram and Law College — shut for a week despite reporting no flu cases.

About 20 schools have shut for a week in Pune, with south Delhi’s Sanskriti School doing the same after three children tested positive on Saturday.

In Delhi, eight of the 13 cases that tested positive were students.

Swine flu samples collected on Saturday went up by 400 per cent in Delhi and Maharashtra, forcing the designated labs -- Pune’s National Institute of Virology (NIV) and Delhi’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) -- to enhance testing capacity by 50 per cent.

With samples to be tested piling up, results have been delayed by up to 36 hours.

Without the hold-up, testing for influenza A H1N1 – the scientific nomenclature for swine flu – is done within six hours.

“The National Institute of Virology (NIV) has increased capacity to over 400 tests today as samples from Pune and the rest of Maharashtra shot up from 70-80 a day two days ago to over 300 on Saturday,” said Dr A C Mishra, director, NIV, Pune.

At Delhi’s NCDC, the number of samples shot up from 50 on Thursday to over 200 on Saturday. At the time of going to press, they were still coming.

The NCDC has a capacity to do 100 tests a day, with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences being roped in to doing another 30 from Friday. Patel Chest Institute in north Delhi will start doing 20 tests from Monday.

“Despite 18 labs, NCDC gets samples from across the country – from Jammu & Kashmir to Kerala and Andhra – perhaps because Delhi is so well connected,” said an NCDC official, who did not want to be qouted. Priority is given to outstation cases to ensure there is not much lag between sample collection and testing.

Still, Pune’s NIV gets the bulk of cases. “Because of Pune and Mumbai, we test more samples at NIV than the rest of the country put together,” said Mishra. Nineteen government labs – including one each at NIV’s two campuses —are testing for H1N1 across country.

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