M A I N   N E W S

Jittery govt rewrites H1N1 rules
Report cases to govt facility, pvt hospitals told
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 4
Rattled by the death of 14-year-old Reeda Sheikh, a Pune girl, who died of swine flu yesterday, following wrong treatment, the government today asked all private health facilities to report suspected Influenza A H1N1 cases to the government system, which alone is currently equipped to test and treat cases.

Back in Maharashtra, the government today invoked the Epidemic Act, making it mandatory for suspected cases to be admitted to government facility. Health being a state subject, the Maharashtra government is also contemplating action against private hospitals that failed to follow swine flu norms while testing Reeda.

In the capital, on the other hand, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said there was no cause for panic as India had reported only one death, that too due to wrong diagnosis and treatment.

“We are still much better of than the development countries where more deaths are occurring and more infections surfacing,” the minister said after chairing a high-level meeting of the health ministry which today revised the existing guidelines for testing and treatment of swine flu cases, anticipating an increase in the caseload of seasonal influenza patients who would want to get tested to rule out swine flu. Monsoon would bring more flu cases, experts said, even as the swine flu cases in the country touched the 574 mark, with 470 patients treated and discharged.

The present guidelines stipulate that a person suspected of influenza A H1N1 needs to be referred to an identified government health facility where he or she would be isolated and treated if found positive.

Revised guidelines, however, seek to make testing of swine flu accessible to all and provide for the isolation of only severe cases. Home quarantine has also been allowed, unlike earlier (it would come with guidelines for family and contacts). Further, whereas people can visit government hospitals if they suspect swine flu, the decision to test and quarantine them would rest with the doctor. Suspected cases coming from outside of India will continue to be quarantined with the government also planning to involve private hospitals in testing along with government labs.

But before that the health ministry plans a sensitisation meeting with major private healthcare providers to apprise them with the challenges of Influenza A H1N1. “We don’t want a repeat of Pune incident,” Joint Secretary, Health, Vineet Choudhry said.

Meanwhile, anti-viral drug Tamiflu would continue to be in government control and not retail sector, with Choudhry asking people to report to government hospitals where clinical assessment of suspected cases would be held. About revised guidelines, he said the government wanted to address fears that people would be isolated in hospitals for treatment. Home quarantine, he said, would be allowed if the government doctor prescribes. There is no change in the guidelines meant for passengers arriving at airports with flu like symptom.



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