180 people were tested at the institute by noon; It was 300 by the end of the day: sources

It was a motley crowd that queued up outside the A(H1N1) test centre at the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD) on Thursday. A fresh group arrived every five minutes, armed with masks and umbrellas to beat the sweltering heat. A mini van rumbled in, packed with people from Bidadi.

By noon, 180 people were tested. By the end of the day, this number rose to 300, sources at the centre said.

Doctors said that the number of people showing up was on the rise. There was panic among the people, as the first indication of A(H1N1) virus fatality came in.

“Why are you not wearing a proper mask?” Srinivasan S., who brought his wife and daughter, asked this reporter.

Mr. Srinivasan said that his wife and daughter were “suffering from minor fever and body ache”. They had been referred for tests by a doctor, he added.

Habeeba Begum, a resident of Tannery Road, said that her brother was diagnosed with A(H1N1) by a homoeopathy doctor and given medicines.

“He has been ill for two months now, so I don’t think it is A(H1N1). I brought him here so we could be sure,” she said and expressed the fear that doctors in her locality could be adding to the panic among residents.

Doctors at the RGICD agreed saying that private doctors should act more responsibly. “Many doctors are asking patients to undergo these tests, when they obviously suffer just from common cold. Panic can be avoided at that stage only,” said Shashidhar Buggi, director, RGICD.

Dr. Buggi said that patients often get irritated when asked not to panic. “We tell them to go ahead and get a test done, so they can be reassured,” he said. Since Wednesday, the testing centre has had 10 desks where people can get tests done.

Like Ms. Habeeba, several families have been referred here by doctors in the city.

Anahita Sarkhel, herself a doctor from Kolkata, had brought her husband in for screening. “It is probably just a cold. But even doctors actually want to play it safe — which is why I think it is better we just come and undergo the test,” she says.

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