M A I N   N E W S

Private labs invited to show capacity
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
n High-risk air travellers advised to put on masks n Private labs allowed to apply for H1N1 testing n
PGI, Chandigarh hasn’t received any sample n Test and Tamiflu free in government hospitals n Schools advised to exercise caution

New Delhi, August 7
The government today advised all high-risk (pregnant women, those suffering chronic respiratory disorders and cardiac problems) air travellers and airport workers to wear three-layered protective masks to prevent catching Influenza-A H1N1 virus, which is still mild in India and has not mutated. Of the 711 cases reported, 511 have been treated and discharged. Indigenous vaccine is also expected within four to seven months, the government said today.

Meanwhile, total infections rose to 96, with Pune, Mumbai and Delhi reporting maximum cases at 37, 16 and 12, respectively.

The two critical Pune patients (one of them an ayurveda doctor who was self-treating himself till diagnosed for swine flu) are stable and responding to treatment.

In another move today, the Health Ministry allowed private labs to apply for H1N1 testing and asked states to report to the Centre names of those private hospitals that have the facilities (like isolation) to admit and treat H1N1 patients.

However, private testing would be allowed only if the lab conforms to required bio-safety levels.

The government said it did not want a repeat of the Pune incident where a private hospital sent the swab of Rida Shaikh to Ruby Hall Clinic, which did not have the capacity to test H1N1 and gave a negative report, leading to the child’s death.

“We have surplus capacity,” said the Health Secretary, Naresh Dayal. Some government labs like the PGI, Chandigarh, have not got even one sample so far.

The government further said it had never stopped private labs from testing, and added that private labs would levy their own charges for testing; whereas in the government system the test is free. One positive swine flu test costs Rs 10,000.

The ministry would, however, administer free Tamiflu to patients who get prescriptions based on reports from accredited private labs. It also decided today to further decentralise Tamiflu stock for districts; 72,000 capsules will be made available for this, and metros will be prepared to treat 10,000 cases at any given time.

Tomorrow, the Cabinet Secretary will meet Chief Secretaries, where ministry officials are likely to ask Tamil Nadu to withdraw its advisory of no travel to Pune and Satara.



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