The State would soon have three laboratory facilities for testing for Influenza A (H1N1) infectionSecretary (Health and Family Welfare) Manoj Joshi said. These were expected to be functional by next week.

The Government of India had notified the Kasturba Medical College at Manipal in Karnataka as an authorised testing centre for the virus and henceforth all samples from the North Malabar region would be sent to this laboratory, Mr. Joshi said, at a joint press conference with the Indian Medical Association authorities here on Sunday.

Mr. Joshi said that a team from JIPMER, Puducherry, would be here on Monday to inspect the lab at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), which has the Bio-Safety Level 3 lab facilities for A(H1N1) testing . The team would also be inspecting the laboratory of the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi which had sought approval for its diagnostic facility.

These three diagnostic facilities, expected to be ready by next week, should be able to meet the State’s requirement for testing for the virus, he said.

The State has so far been dependent on the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (presently renamed the National Centre for Disease Control) for getting the samples tested. Overloaded with samples from across the country, the NICD has not been able to provide results on time. The results of over 140 samples from the State are yet to be received.

New guidelines

Mr. Joshi said that as the A(H1N1) pandemic evolves, the treatment guidelines and protocols would continue to be reviewed to suit the country’s requirements. Earlier, all persons with flu-like symptoms suspected to be swine flu infection were isolated in a government hospital and tested.

According to the latest guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, all persons with flu-like symptoms do not require to be isolated in a hospital. Any person with symptoms such as fever, cough, cold or running nose should go to a hospital designated by the government and subject himself to screening. After clinical assessment, the medical officer-in-charge will decide if there is a need for testing this patient.

The person will be asked to take the prescribed medication – not necessarily Oseltamivir – and allowed to go home. He will be provided the quarantine instructions, the home safety measures that the entire household needs to follow strictly and monitor his medical condition. If the sample is taken and sent for testing, the patient would be informed about the result and if positive, given the option of hospital admission or home treatment.

In the case of those with severe symptoms or those in the `high-risk’ category, with underlying illnesses, the doctor will again decide if he/she needs to be hospitalised.

In the case of passengers screened at the airports, the existing policy of isolation of all suspected cases of H1N1 infection will continue.

Private hospitals

The Health Secretary also appealed to the private hospitals to take a lead role in helping the government handle the evolving pandemic. In the event of a crisis, with the spread of indigenous cases of swine flu, the Government medical colleges and hospitals alone will not be able to handle tertiary care needs , Mr. Joshi said.

The current situation in the State certainly demanded alertness on the part of the public, but did not warrant panic at all, he added.

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