AH1N1 death reveals lapses in communication

When 22-year-old Niveditha, the city's first victim of the AH1N1 virus (swine flu) this year died in a private hospital in the city on Monday, the Chennai Corporation only found out about the death a day later. This lack of communication between the civic body and private hospitals has raised several questions as to how well-equipped the city is to tackle public health issues.

“I came to know of the incident only on Tuesday at 5 p.m. and when I called the hospital to ask why we were not informed, they said they had sent the information by the usual online system of disease reporting. This particular hospital reports regularly. I don't know what happened this time,” said P. Kuganantham Corporation Health Officer.

When asked if there had been a delay in the private hospital communicating with the Health Officer, Corporation Commissioner D. Karthikeyan said: “I will enquire into the issue and if there was some delay, we will take action. There is no threat of any communicable disease in Chennai. We are closely monitoring our own urban Public Health Centres and private hospitals too.”

Asked about the lapse in communication between the Chennai Corporation and the private hospital, Director of Public Health R.T. Porkai Pandian said private hospitals must ensure that such cases are reported on time.

Dr. Sudhakar of the Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences where Niveditha, a resident of Villupuram, was treated, said she had come to the hospital after severe symptoms persisted for five days. “Soon after the patient was admitted, we sent a swab to Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research and started her on Tamiflu. Her X-ray showed fluid accumulation in the lungs, her respiratory condition was bad and she was unable to maintain oxygen saturation in the blood.” Her sample tested positive for AH1NI.

She was then transferred to Apollo First Med Hospital in Chennai on ventilator support. “On April 9, she was admitted to the hospital and a sample which was sent to King Institute of Preventive Medicine, Guindy, was negative for the virus,” said V. Ramasubramanian, senior consultant, infectious diseases, Apollo Hospital.

Dr. Pandian said that so far 52 cases of AH1N1 had been detected in the State and of these, 26 were in Chennai. “We advise persons with symptoms not to self-medicate. At the most, Paracetamol should be taken,” he said. On community immunisation, he said a decision was yet to be taken. “We will be floating tenders for vaccines after April 20,” he added.

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Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012

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