State nCoV-free so far, but no time for Health officials to rest

‘Even if there was to be a positive case, we are prepared to handle the situation’

For the past few years, one of the priorities for Health Department officials every January is to keep a tab on swine flu cases. It wasn’t any different this year either — till mid-January. Their priority changed after they were asked to trace and isolate an MBBS student who had returned to Hyderabad from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) epidemic.

However, the student’s admission at the Fever Hospital, Nallakunta, was kept a closely-guarded secret until the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced on January 24 about four samples, including one from Hyderabad, testing negative for nCoV.

Daily monitoring

Health officials heaved a sigh of relief after results of the samples collected from the suspected patient came in. However, more people with recent travel history to China and Hong Kong started to show symptoms of nCoV such as fever and cold. Such was the situation that the Health officials held back-to-back meetings on a daily basis, something unheard of in recent times.

From the third week of January, every day, Special Chief Secretary of the State Health department A. Santhi Kumari has been holding meetings with the heads of different wings of the department and apprised Health Minister Eatala Rajender of the situation. The daily meetings continue to this day. Doctors, nurses and Class-IV employees are completely involved in preparedness. By brainstorming strategies and ideas to researching literature on the new virus and guidelines issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, officials charted a series of steps to be taken. Their agenda was to prevent the spread of nCoV in the State, if there were to be a positive case.

Screening at airport

And the first step to achieve this was to check passengers arriving at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad. They were and continue to be screened using thermal scanners and thermal guns. If the passengers have high body temperature, they are asked for travel history, symptoms and if they were in contact with anyone with nCoV.

The next task was isolating nCoV suspects. Symptomatic patients were admitted in isolation wards of Sir Ronald Ross Institute of Tropical and Communicable Diseases (Fever Hospital), Gandhi Hospital and Government General and Chest Hospital. Instead of sending samples to the National Institute of Virology(NIV)-Pune, the virology laboratory at Gandhi Hospital was chosen to test samples collected from the two Telugu States.

Till Monday, there were no positive cases of nCoV — 73 samples from the State have been tested so far. The results of two more are awaited.

However, officials remain on high alert. “We are well prepared for any circumstances. Even if there is to be a positive case, we are prepared to handle the situation,” Fever Hospital superintendent K. Shankar said.

Director of Public Health G. Srinivas Rao said they are even prepared to tackle multiple positive cases. “We have set up isolation wards in erstwhile district hospitals as well as teaching hospitals. We are procuring additional masks, personal protection equipment and sanitisers. Sufficient number of mechanical ventilators are kept ready at teaching hospitals,” Dr Rao said.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 11:29:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/state-ncov-free-so-far-but-no-time-for-health-officials-to-rest/article30786660.ece

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