H1N1 flu: Testing time for staff at labs

Throat and nasal swabs test will cost about Rs 5,000 at a Bio-Safety III level lab

 
Panic-Striken: People wait for H1N1 flu check-up outside the ward at Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases in Bangalore on Saturday. DH PHOTOThe Ministry of Health is currently bearing the cost of testing every sample.  Apart from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in New Delhi and National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune, the Centre roped in 16 labs across the country to test the samples.

One of the labs which was identified and has already started testing samples is the
Bio-Safety Level III Laboratory, located in the department of Neuro-Virology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS). The lab which was supposed to start working next week was put to work on Friday.

Lab in-charge and Head of the Department Neuro-Virology at NIMHANS, Dr V Ravi says that all the equipment is coming free of cost to the lab. "However, it will cost not less than Rs 5,000 to test each sample at the Bio-Safety Level III Lab", said Dr Ravi.

He said that the test is conducted in three stages - collection, processing and actual testing. The swab stick, personal protect equipment (PPE) meant to be used for collecting swabs including the tube plates and the PCR kit used in the lab, will totally cost about Rs 5,000 for one swab test.

The number of suspected cases is likely to rise in the coming months and testing every sample will be tedious for professionals and technicians in the lab. A maximum of 80 swabs can be tested at the NIMHANS Lab, even if the PCR machines are kept working for 24 hours.

Joint Director Dr Cheluvaraj says, “I know we cannot test all swabs. Right now, there is a huge number of swabs to be tested at NIMHANS Lab.  We will test swabs based on priority and will come up with new procedures to handle the situation shortly.”

Diagnosis should improve

Clinical diagnosis must be improved instead of collecting each and every sample, says former UNICEF Programme Officer Dr Seenappa.  "Many suspected cases might just have common cold, doctors at the hospital must send samples of only those cases with severe symptoms". However, others can be administered the antiviral drug which works cheaper then testing swabs.

Countries like the United States and many European nations which have reported thousands of cases till date have actually stopped lab testing of samples. They instead have started administering the antiviral drug (Tamiflu) to patient bases on H1N1 Flu symptoms.

The Centre and the State governments must think practically as India is hugely populated and the cost involved is more where such an outbreak of global pandemic takes place.

H1N1 flu in the State

No of cases screened at BIA  Airport    2,85,604   
No of cases screened at Bajpe Airport     36,722
No of suspected cases till date    466
Cases confirmed positive with H1N1 Flu    81

List of hospitals

The following are the list of hospitals now admitting and screening H1N1 suspected patients
*  Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD)
* Victoria Hospital
* Lakeside Medical Centre and Hospital
* Manipal Hospital
* St John's Hospital
* St Marthas Hospital
* Vaidehi Hospital
* Mallya Hospital
* Mallige Medical Centre
* Dr Ambedkar Hospital
* Mahabodhi Mallige Hospital
* City Hospital, Rajajinagar
* M S Ramiah Hospital
* Pristine Hospital
* Fortis Hospital
* Columbia Asia Hospital

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