The Karnataka Government on Saturday directed all private hospitals and nursing homes to provide free medical treatment to A(H1N1) influenza patients in the State. At a high-level meeting on A(H1N1) influenza, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said treatment to patients who test positive for A(H1N1) influenza would be given free of cost and the gGovernment would reimburse the cost to respective private hospitals later.

Mr. Yeddyurappa said the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, would purchase equipment at a cost of Rs. 40 lakh to conduct tests on throat and blood swab of suspected swine flu cases. The equipment, according to the Chief Minister, would facilitate testing of 300 samples a day.

Mr. Yeddyurappa said he would also request Prabhakar Kore, MP, to set up a laboratory at KLE Society Hospital in Belgaum for testing. Already, seven hospitals, including Narayana Hrudayala, have decided to set up labs for conducting tests.

The Chief Minister suggested to officials concerned to release relevant, influenza-related advertisements in the electronic media and on All India Radio to create awareness on A(H1N1) influenza.

Mr. Yeddyurappa said that Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had appreciated the steps initiated by the State Government to contain the spread of swine flu. He said that the three teams from the Centre that had visited Bangalore had appreciated the preventive steps taken by the government to contain spread of A(H1N1). Besides, the Centre had agreed to supply to the State N95 masks and Tamiflu tablets, he added.

Minister for Health and Family Welfare B. Sriramulu said the police would book criminal cases against dealers who sold masks at a higher cost. Doctors and nurses would be posted at the Bengaluru International Airport to screen passengers coming from abroad for A(H1N1).

The Minister also said the public in need of help related to A(H1N1) can call the toll free helpline: 1056.

NIMHANS Director D. Nagaraja said the influenza was spreading in Bangalore, Mangalore and border areas of Maharashtra. He urged the Government to provide at least two ventilators for each district hospital to facilitate proper treatment for patients and stressed the need to impart training to health personnel to deal with suspected cases of swine flu.

Dr. Nagaraja said NIMHANS had tested samples of 963 persons and 218 patients had tested positive for A(H1N1) influenza. Only 100 tests a day were being conducted now and once the new equipment was installed, 300 tests would be conducted, he added.

An official of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Chest Diseases said 5,770 suspected cases had been screened. Of them, 154 patients had tested positive and they were treated for A(H1N1) influenza and they had recovered.

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