Swine flu (H1N1) panic has gripped the city with the reporting of a case suspected to be the viral infection in neighbouring Guntur city.

Doctors and paramedics at the Government General Hospital (GGH) have begun wearing masks to protect themselves from the highly contagious virus that is spreading like wild fire all over the world.

But, the same enthusiasm is not apparent in the preparations to treat the large number of impending cases. When contacted, Resident Medical Officer of the Government General Hospital D. Shalini Devi told The Hindu on Thursday that a Swine Flu isolation ward had been established on the premises of the GGH at Hanumanpet, where the Chest Clinic was located, as per the instructions from the higher-ups.

Medication

S.B. Lal, Head of the Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Deputy Superintendent, said an isolation ward with 10 beds and all the basic requirements had been opened on the Hanumanpet premises.

The anti-viral medication and masks required were in the main hospital (Siddhartha Medical College campus) and would be brought to the isolation ward as and when required.

Private nursing homes, on the other hand, seem to be more anxious about being prepared to meet the impending rush of Swine Flu patients.

All of them have made indents with pharmaceutical distributors to provide them with anti-viral drugs and face masks, but to no avail.

Sriram Razith Kumar, a wholesale drug dealer, said nursing homes with retail outlets have been mounting tremendous pressure on distributors for anti-viral drugs required for the treatment of Swine Flu.

“Only one company has the patent rights over Tamiflu, which slows the spread of non-resistant strains of the influenza virus between cells in the body.

Insufficient beds

The Government has ordered that the entire anti-viral drug produced be handed over to it. The reason being cited for this was that the drug would find its way into the black-market.

The drug distributors are ready to be of service to society during the time of crisis. We will ensure such things do not happen,” Mr. Kumar said.

“The Government of NCT of Delhi on Wednesday directed all private hospitals in the city to keep at least 10 beds with isolation facilities for treating Swine Flu patients under the Epidemic Diseases Act.

In that case, the anti-viral drug has to be supplied to the private nursing homes also,” he said.

Though the drugs have not yet entered the black-market. the masks that are in short supply are being sold at exorbitant prices.

Masks that are usually used in operation theatres and ICUs and are sold for Rs. 2 a piece are being sold for Rs. 10 or more.

While droplets on the skin are enough for causing infection, the efficacy of the masks have also become a topic of hot debate in the medical circles in the city.

The 10 beds allocated seem to be grossly insufficient for catering to the needs of a city with a population of 10 lakhs.

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