PANAJI 27th February: In the backdrop of rising cases of death due to swine flu and the number of people affected with the H1N1 virus across the country crossing 17,000, Dr Utkarsh Betodkar, state epidemiologist and SSO, nodal officer (EVD), IDSP-Directorate of Health Service, has issued a press release on precautions to be taken to prevent swine flu.
According to the press release the antiviral medication required for treating cases of H1N1 is adequately available in the state of Goa. It is made available at Goa Medical College, Bambolim, both district hospitals and Cottage Hospital, Chicalim and as informed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in various private pharmacies having scheduled ‘X’ license. All the medical practitioners are required to give prescriptions in duplicate with signature and doctors name written clearly (as a requirement for schedule ‘X’ drug). One copy of prescription will remain with the patient and one with the pharmacist. These medicines will not be given over the counter by pharmacists.
Isolation facilities are presently identified at Cottage Hospital, Chicalim as well as at Goa Medical College ward 147. Isolation facilities if needed for suspected or confirmed patients with complications like breathlessness, chest pain, fall in BP, drowsiness, sputum mixed with blood, irritability among small children, refusal to accept feeds, and worsening of underlying chronic conditions may be referred to Goa Medical College, Bambolim with prior intimation to the facility.
The symptoms of infection include fever, cough, sore throat, running nose, headache, muscle and joint pain (body aches), chills, fatigue, difficulty in breathing, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Anyone having such symptoms may report immediately to the nearest health centre or hospital or medical practitioner. The disease is curable with the available medicines, mentions the press note. “Suspects should be hospitalized only if having any complications. Only such admitted patients to be subjected to H1N1 testing. There is no need for H1N1 testing for OPD level patients. Admission for patients with milder symptoms is not advised and such patients are advised to stay at home for minimum period of 7 days.
Influenza vaccine is presently not available with Directorate of Health Services. The vaccine takes about 2-3 weeks for development of immunity. Efficiency of vaccine may be about 70 per cent to 80 per cent. Hence vaccine should not give a false sense of security and considering the risk involved, the preventive modality of infection prevention and control practices like use of mask, gloves and hand washing and sanitization practices should be strictly adhered to,” mentions the release.
“We have registered seven swine flu cases, so far, and one death. About 48 samples have been taken and tested, which also include nine samples sent for testing to the National Disease Control Center (NCDC), New Delhi, last Monday. The reports are awaited.” Stated Utkarsha Betodkar, “There are arrangements of beds in ward 147 of Goa Medical College (GMC) and Hospital, Bambolim, and some beds at Cottage hospital, Chicalim. Not all persons infected with swine flu require hospitalization. In case of a mild infection, it is enough if the person stays home and takes anti-viral treatment. Except the patient who died, the six other persons who had tested positive for swine flu, were sent home a day or two after hospitalization.” He further stated.
According to the information revealed by Dr Utkarsh Betodkar the Masks are needed to be used by the doctors, pharmacists, staff of the hospitals as well as others who may have chance to get exposed to the virus. He also mentioned that Masks are must as even they could have possibility of carrying the virus, you never know. A mask can ideally be used for four to five hours and has to be discarded properly. The situation in Goa is not as bad as it is in other states to warrant the wearing of masks. People must take other precautions—see a doctor for a viral infection, and if they are not hospitalized, they should not go out in public until they have fully recovered.
The antiviral drug Oseltamivir which is the most effective in treating the swine flu is not made available across the counters in Goa since if it becomes easily available and doctors start prescribing it for simple viral infections. In that case, resistance will be developed to the drug. If that happens, the antiviral drug will not be effective to cure swine flu. It is a precaution against that possibility
We appeal to all the people of the state to take all the precautions to stay away from the virus as total cure is not yet available for this virus according to the information available from the trusted sources, the best practice is to use the mask if you suspect to have even viral cold until the possibility of the VIRUS has been ruled out by the medical practitioners.