'H1N1 can spread fast on BMTC buses, metro trains'

'H1N1 can spread fast on BMTC buses, metro trains'

Metro trains pose a higher risk of spreading the H1N1 infection as they are completely closed, save for ventilation through airconditioning. DH FILE PHOTO

Lack of awareness, coupled with unchecked pollution and inadequate access to health care, has put Bengaluru on the brink when it comes to readiness and resilience to fight communicable diseases. 

Experts who have worked closely with aid agencies noted that though H1N1 is not as deadly as some vector-borne diseases, lack of awareness was a worrying factor considering crowded spaces and closed environments. From lifts in malls to metro trains and BMTC buses, the flu can spread fast from droplets from infected persons’ cold or cough. 

“Though there is no need to panic, officials should understand that crowded metro trains and BMTC buses pose a huge risk for people. Metro trains pose a higher risk as they are completely closed save for the ventilation through airconditioning. BMTC buses carry a large section of the crowd from rural areas who often don’t have access to proper health services,” said the expert, who has worked in epidemic-hit areas. 

The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) and the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) together carry about 50 lakh people every day. The spread of the disease to even a minute portion of the section is a huge risk. 

BMRCL Managing Director Ajay Seth stressed that there was no need to panic. “It (H1N1) is like common flu. The incidence is much lower this year than what was seen in previous years. The department is carrying out IEC (information, education and communication) activities,” he said. 

Seth, who is also the Additional Chief Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Department, said all government hospitals were stocked with the Oseltamivir drug. “Free diagnostic facility is available at Nimhans and Manipal Centre for Virus Research. People with strong flu-like symptoms are generally advised not to visit crowded places,” he said. 

Asked about the need for the IEC through announcements in metro stations, Seth said: “The current incidence level does not warrant any targeted messaging.” 

BMTC officials said they have not received any advice from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) health department. “If the BBMP advises on it, we will definitely take it up,” a senior official said.

BBMP chief public health officer Manoranjan Hegde said they were conducting awareness programmes among the public.