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First fatality in Chennai raises more queries

TN considering opening up accredited private hospitals for treating H1N1 virus even as 45 patients were tested positive in Tamil Nadu so far, reports MR Venkatesh.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2009 17:53 IST
MR Venkatesh

The tragic death of four-year-old Sanjay in Chennai early on Monday, who had tested positive for swine flu, is the first H1N1 virus fatality in Tamil Nadu. But multiple factors contributing to his death have raised more ticklish issues for the State, which is now likely to let accredited private hospitals treat swine-flu cases.

The condition of Sanjay, who was admitted to Dr. Mehta’s multi-specialty hospital here following renal failure two days back, deteriorated rapidly and turned out to be a “very uncommon case as it became a multi-organ failure in just two days,” said Dr. N. Prahalad, Pediatric Nephrologist at the hospital.

Official and hospital sources told HT today that the Upper Kinder Garden kid from Velacherry, a middle class residential suburb of South Chennai , was already suffering from ‘asthma’ for the past two years and Sanjay’s health took a turn for the worse as he developed ‘diarrhea’ and other complications including nil urinary output suddenly. The boy had actually come to that hospital to be put on dialysis, but the best efforts of the doctors could not save him and he breathed his last this morning, sources said.

Though the boy did test positive for ‘H1N1’ virus in the eleventh hour, Sanjay’s death “cannot be pin-pointed to the swine-flu virus” and he died of “multiple organ failure,” Dr. S. Ilango, Director of Public Health, Tamil Nadu, told HT.

The boy’s father had been to Singapore a month ago and it is suspected that the male parent “might have been the carrier of this virus”, Dr. Ilango said. The father had not yet been down with swine-flu, but both the deceased boy’s parents are now undergoing blood tests as a precautionary measure, he added.

Sanjay’s father, who was very much with his critically ailing son at the bedside in the hospital, is in a state of shock and grief and is in no position to react to the media. The deceased boy’s elder brother threw up symptoms of swine flu for which he has been house-quarantined and treated at their home. Hospital sources declined to reveal any detail about the affected family including the name of the deceased kid’s father.

Over 200 inmates of the housing flats complex at Velacherry were screened for the virus since yesterday and 17 persons there have been given prophylactic treatment with ‘Tamiflu’, sources said. “There is no need to panic and the only way to meet it is early proper diagnosis and prompt treatment,” Mr. Elango emphasized.

A few schools in Chennai including the Akshayah Matriculation School in which Sanjay was a student has declared a holiday for a week, even as 14 other children from the same school with the viral symptoms were being treated, sources said. Even as some more fresh cases were reported from Tiruchirappalli and Coimbatore today, the State Health Secretary, Mr. V. K. Subburaj said about 45 patients have tested positive for this virus in Tamil Nadu so far since its outbreak in May last. Of these 7 patients are being treated in different Government hospitals and the remaining house-quarantined. The latters’ treatment indoors is being monitored by the Public Health Officials.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr. M. Karunanidhi, told reporters that a high-level meeting of specialist-doctors and health department officials here tomorrow will decide on further urgent steps to be taken to tackle the situation, but added there was no cause for alarm or panic as being made out in a section of the media.

“Several suggestions including closure of affected schools would come up at the meeting and whatever is feasible will be implemented,” Mr. Karunanidhi said. The Government is also considering allowing bona fide accredited private hospitals to treat swine-flu cases, as the numbers threaten to go up. A decision on this is expected later this evening at a Chief Secretary level’s meeting in Chennai and would be formalized at the high-level meeting to be chaired by the Chief Minister tomorrow.

Though some media reports are also suggesting “shortage of test kits” at the King Institute in Guindy here, one of the centres in the country to test blood samples, a top Government source who did not want to be quoted said that “vested interests in the medical trade could also be contributing to the sense of fright by allegedly creating an artificial scarcity for such products and medicines."