Swine flu is back in Punjab, with the state reporting its first flu casuality this flu season. Over the last 2 years there has been over 300 swine flu cases in the state. A resident of Nangal, Vijay Kumar, 35, passed away on Friday evening. He was one of the two swine flu positive patients admitted at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DCMH).
“The patient’s blood sample showed high level of infection which usually happens in this flu, if not reported on time. By the time he was here, he had septicemia — a bacteria that occurs with infections, resulting in a cardiac arrest,” Dr Rajesh Mahajan, professor of medicine at DMCH. Lack of proper facilities has been a major concern in the state. There aren’t enough isolation wards, bed facilities and ventilators in the state to deal with the swine flu menace. In 2009-10, 252 tested positive for the virus and 73 of them passed away, mostly due to lack or delay in treatment. There are very few central government laboratories with facilities to test throat swabs for swine flu and this has hampered detection and treatment.
At present, PGIMER is the only hospital in the state, equipped with the swab facility, to deal with patients’ reports from 24 districts and it has to deal with cases from neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana as well. The state’s officials however say things are ‘under control’.
”In the entire country, we have 6-7 labs with testing facilities. It takes a lot of money and equipment to build such a lab. We have a stockpile of oseltamivir tablets (anti-viral drug) for 15,000 people here in Chandigarh and 23,000 people in other districts,” said Dr Deepak Bhatia, nodal officer, Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, Punjab. The central health ministry in 2009 had outlined steps aimed at containing clusters of infections by providing oseltamivir to every single person in a 5-km zone around each cluster but the state never started the process of distributing the tablets.
“This flu is no longer a pandemic which one could contract from someone. It’s an endemic and already in the population. We have issued a high alert already. Medicines will be distributed now that the flu has been detected,” said Bhatia.
Recently a review meeting had been called to discuss preventive arrangements and preparedness of the health department in tackling H1N1 after reports of two H1N1 positive patients caused a stir in the state. The neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh recently reported one swine flu death, a 55-year-old woman.