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Swine Flu
7 more students test positive
Centre’s team in Punjab; northern states on alert
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, June 15
Seven of the nine Jalandhar school students, who returned from an educational trip to the USA and suspected to be suffering from Swine flu, today tested positive. The tests were carried out at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, New Delhi.

As many as 31 students and 3 teachers ,including the principal of Guru Amar Dass Public School in Model Town, had returned on Saturday evening after visiting NASA installations in Texas. While one of them had been detained at New Delhi airport itself and later quarantined in a New Delhi hospital, others were allowed to travel by road together to Jalandhar.

It was only after the detained schoolboy, Karandeep, tested positive that an alert had been sounded and the group rounded up and isolated on Sunday afternoon. Relatives of some of the students are upset over what they see as a case of gross negligence when authorities in Delhi allowed the group to leave and move freely for the next 22 hours.

A team of four doctors from the NICD reached Jalandhar today to assist state government authorities in supervising the cases. There is, however, no reason to panic, advised Dr Bhawani Singh of NICD, as the mortality rate for Swine Flu patients is less than two per cent.

The team advised everyone who came in contact with the group of students and teachers to remain indoors during the next few days as a precautionary measure. They cautioned people against even visiting the homes to enquire after their welfare.

People, specially those who have returned from USA, Canada or Mexico, and who complain of fever, sore throat and running nose, have been advised to contact Jalandhar Helpline numbers of DHO Roop Lal at 9815369515 or Dr T.P.Singh at 9814090818.

With Punjab having no facicility to test blood samples for the H1N1 virus, blood samples of a passenger , Avtar Singh, detained at Amritsar has been sent to NICD for testing. The passenger, who has been residing in UK for the past six years, had landed at Raja Sansi airport and complained of fever and sore throat. He has been quarantined in a special ward in the civil hospital.

Four passengers who had traveled with the students on a Qatar Airlines flight are also learnt to have reported symptoms of swine flu. Two of them are from Kapurthala, one from Bathinda and another from Kangra in Himachal Pradesh. Respective district officials have been alerted, said Deepak Bhatia, the nodal officer dealing with the disease.

Meanwhile, the state government today swung into action to establish control rooms in all districts as well as the headquarters here, besides creating isolation wards and activating a rapid response team to deal with all exigencies. As many as 2,500 capsules of Tamil flu medicine have been supplied to patients in Jalandhar and Amritsar besides 2,500 surgical masks.

Deputy Director for Control of Malaria Dr VS Mohi said other immediate steps taken by the department included installation of a semi-automatic analyser at the Amritsar airport. He added medical teams from Amritsar and Tarn Taran had been stationed at the entry points of Attari and Wagah border to conduct necessary checks wherever needed. Dr Mohi also said rapid response teams, which had been activated, included a pathologist, microbiologist, medical specialist and an epidemiologist. Nodal officers, including himself and Dr Deepak Bhatia, could be contacted on their mobile numbers - 9815681111 and 9814302403 in case of any emergency. Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, AS Talwar visited the civil hospital in Jalandhar and Amritsar and reviewed the suspected cases. Talwar directed all the civil surgeons to monitor the situation in their respective districts. He also directed that medical camps be organised at the district level by involving NGOs to bring awareness among people about the cause and preventive cure of swine flu. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has also directed the Chief Secretary to gear up medical machinery in government medical colleges and hospitals to fully equip them to deal with suspected Swine flu patients.

A general alert has been sounded in all the northern states, which have been asked to stock up Tami Flu capsules, testing kits, masks and other protective gear.

Dr K.C. Pant, a senior physician attached to Doon Hospital, said that while the summer heat is helpful in containing the disease by killing the germs, the impending rains could prove to be tricky. The virus, he apprehended, could proliferate in lower temperatures.

International tourists visiting HP are not being screened, however, as Bhuntar airport receives only two domestic flights. While hospitals have been asked to set up isolation wards and form rapid response groups, the state appears short of Tami Flu capsules and protective gear.

A team of six doctors and six para-medics have been stationed, however, at Srinagar’s international airport and medical teams have been placed at the domestic airports of Jammu and Leh, informed Dr Muzaffar Ahmed, Director ( Health) in Srinagar. Medical teams have also been deployed, he said, at Lakhanpur, which is the entry point to the state for people traveling by road.

(With inputs from Jangveer Singh in Chandigarh, Neena Sharma in Dehradun, Kumar Rakesh in Srinagar and Kuldeep Chauhan in Mandi)

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