The laboratory facility for conducting Swine flu tests in Kutch is likely to take at least two more weeks even as the virus claimed yet another life in the district while 17 fresh cases of the disease also came to the light on Wednesday. In entire Saurashtra and Kutch region, only Rajkot has the facility to conduct Swine flu tests. A team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi, visited Kutch on Wednesday to take stock of the situation and assess efforts by local health officers to contain the spread of H1N1 influenza-A. The four-member team from Delhi included NCDC additional director and head of microbiology department, Dr Shashi Khare. The team visited GK General Hospital in Bhuj town, the district headquarters of Kutch, and inquired if a swine flu testing facility could be set up there.
The team was informed local health officers that work was already in progress to set up such a laboratory. During his visit to Bhuj on January 23, chief secretary of Gujarat, D J Pandian had announced to set up Swine flu testing laboratory in Bhuj to tackle the outbreak of the virus. Presently, only Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Medical College (PDUMC) in Rajkot has the facility to conduct Swine flu tests and it has a capacity to handle 100 samples every day. A courier from each government hospital in districts of Saurahstra and Kutch leaves at midnight with samples of suspect swine flu patients and reaches Rajkot in the morning. The PDUMC conducts tests in two batches of 50 samples each.The couriers email results to respective hospitals in the evening, officers at PDUMC said.
While Bhuj is around 240 km away from Rajkot, Jamnagar is approximately 88 km away. A 47-year-old man had died in early hours of Tuesday before lab tests confirmed that he had contract Swine flu. Kutch and Jamnagar are the worst-affected districts in the region. Kutch has alone reported more than 25 per cent of total Swine flu cases this season.
“The space has been identified in GK General Hospital to set up the laboratory and a few equipments have already been put in place. The visiting team expressed satisfaction that the lab was being set up. But the lab is likely totake at least a couple of weeks before it becomes operational,” an officer close to the development told The Indian Express.
The team from Delhi also visited the primary health centre in Madhapar village in Bhuj taluka and sought to know what medical officer and paramedics knew about H1N1 and how they handled Swine flu cases. District health officers of Kutch said a team of three microbiologists was undergoing training at PDUMC. They were scheduled to complete their training by Wednesday. However, officers said some other facilities required to be developed in the Adani group-managed GK General Hospital before the testing laboratory could get running. “H1N1 tests require bio-safety level-4. This means microbiologists and lab technicians have to maintain very high levels of personal safety otherwise they will be at the risk of contracting the virus. Plus, the testing kit is very costly and therefore private labs can’t afford it,” a professor of PDUMC said on the condition of anonymity.
A health officer of Kutch said that a single Swine flu test cost average Rs 5,000. But the expense is borne by the state government. Meanwhile, yet another death was reported from Kutch as a minor girl succumbed to the virus on Wednesday. This pushed the death toll in the district to 14 this year. On the other hand, 17 fresh cases of the infectious disease were also reported, taking the total of positive cases to 158 in Kutch.
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