Doctors worried over new ministry guidelines

Swine flu cases continue to mount in the Capital with 15 new cases being reported on Saturday. Ten adults and five children have tested positive, according to State Health Department officials.

Reacting to the revised guidelines issued by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry late on Friday night to tackle swine flu, doctors in the Capital said on Saturday that the new rules might allow some swine flu cases to “slip out of the net and maybe even infect others”.

The revised guidelines state that those with mild flu-like symptoms need not be tested but should confine themselves at home and avoid mixing with others and high-risk members of the family. These patients will, however, need to be monitored and re-assessed at 24 to 48 hours by the doctor.

“We are worried that people who are not very ill but need medical attention might slip out of the net and become seriously ill later. The new guidelines also state that all individuals seeking consultations for flu-like symptoms should be screened at health care facilities, both government and private, or examined by a doctor and then should be categorised and treated accordingly. We still have to discuss the guidelines and understand how it works for us,” said a senior State Health Department official.

Prof. Bir Singh of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, part of the group of experts who prepared the revised guidelines, said: “People have to understand that mild fever and related symptoms need not be swine flu. In these cases, people should not take medication but need to be monitored and report immediately in case their symptoms aggravate. Ninety per cent of these cases recover on their own. The general public should know that we cannot test everyone and that not everyone with cold and fever needs to be put on swine flu medication.”

AIIMS has also brought out an easy-to-understand pamphlet on swine flu. The information capsule says there is no need to panic. It also prescribes ten easy-to-follow steps to avoid panic. They include using a three-layered surgical mask as soon as one has the symptoms. Use one mask for four to six hours and then dispose it of properly, consult a qualified doctor near home, and get oneself examined. If the doctor feels that no testing is required then one should believe him and go home. If the doctor feels otherwise, he will refer the patient to a designated swine flu testing and treatment centre.

The advisory adds that at home people should follow the doctor’s advice: take prescribed medicines, rest, have good sleep, eat healthy food, take lots of fluids and not smoke or consume alcohol. Keep a safe distance of 3-6 feet from other members of the family and not allow very young children, pregnant women and very old persons near the patient. Do not spit here and there. Keep wearing the mask. In a large number of instances, people will usually recover in 6-7 days.

Doctors at AIIMS, however, caution that if during the period of illness the patient develops any symptom such as difficulty in breathing, increased breathing rate (especially in children), bluish colour of nails and lips (especially in children), pain in the chest, decreased level of consciousness and confusion, increased restlessness, increased fever and blood mixed with sputum, he/she should be rushed immediately to the designated swine flu testing and treatment centre.

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