Hyderabad sees spurt in H1N1 cases

The deadly virus is not giving any chance to doctors to treat patients, say experts

The city has recorded 14 deaths due to A(H1N1) infection, five of them in the last three days. The government-run Gandhi Hospital was once again the scene of another A(H1N1)-related death, with Santoshi, a patient from jangaon in Warangal district, succumbing to the infection on Tuesday.  The first A(H1N1) case in the country was reported in Hyderabad on May 16. The city reported its first victim to the virus on September 2.

Health experts believe the A(H1N1) virus has been mutating with local variants to become more virulent, with low temperatures and wet weather providing an ideal breeding ground.

As a way of substantiating their claims, they say that patients are dying within 24 to 48 hours after being infected by the virus. "The virus is not giving any chance to the doctors to treat the patient. That's why even patients with good immunity are dying," said Dr E A Ashok Kumar, superintendent of the government-run Gandhi hospital here.

Dr S V Prasad, superintendent of the government-run Chest Hospital—the nodal agency for swine flu treatment—believed the virus must have undergone change in its genetic make-up as it seem to affect patients faster than before.  Given its virulence, Dr Prasad said the present virus must have emerged from the one imported from abroad, which has mutated with local variants.

Meanwhile, authorities at government-run hospitals are forced to turn away the increasing number of patients with A(H1N1) symptoms due to lack of equipment and space.

Corporate hospitals are also closing their doors for Flu patients, fearing that they would spread the virus inside their campuses.

The case of 20-year-old Ashish Raj was an unfortunate one as he had been turned away by no less than three hospitals. Raj was sent away on Saturday by a corporate hospital and two government ones, including Chest Hospital.

Osmania Government Hospital finally admitted him after considerable begging and pleading from Raj's relatives, before death had put an end to his plight.

Government hospitals reasoned that Raj could have been turned away since they were short of beds and some crucial equipment like ventilators. The Chest Hospital, however, had no such reasons. On Sunday, it admitted S A M Rizvi, District Collector of Nalgonda.

Rizvi was taken in as he was suspected to have A(H1N1) influenza. He was later moved to a corporate hospital, where he is said to be recovering. District officials confirmed that Rizvi tested positive for A(H1N1).

A major worry for the government is that the virus seems to be affecting people with no travel history. The state has taken measures to prevent the infection from spiralling into a major epidemic. It has set up screening centres in all district hospitals from Tuesday and would keep Hyderabad's Institute of Preventive Medicine open 24 hours a day.

Chief Minister K Rosaiah has promised that the state has enough Tamiflu stocks to tackle the escalating cases.

Meanwhile, the number of cases in Hyderabad is on the rise, with health officials confirming that the figure now stands at 319.

 Rosaiah said the government has decided to include A(H1N1) cases as part of the Arogyasri insurance scheme for the poor, since the cost of treatment is Rs 9,000 per patient.

This is likely to benefit those below poverty line—who form a majority of A(H1N1) cases—holding ration cards. The benefit is significant, as treatment cost can go up to Rs 60,000 per patient.

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