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Mexico to Pune,swine flu casts panic shadow

Even as there were reports of swine flu spreading to the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific...

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
April 29, 2009 2:03:22 am

Fear Flies In : Returning travellers flood NIV with calls

Even as there were reports of swine flu spreading to the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific,the National Institute of Virology in Pune was on Tuesday flooded with frantic calls from people who had recently returned from Mexico seeking information on the disease that has claimed over 150 lives in Mexico.

Virologists NIV received calls from over 100 people who had just returned from Mexico and had heard the news of the outbreak.

NIV Director A C Mishra is already at the WHO headquarters in Geneva in light of the outbreak.

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Even as the institute awaits for the primers,which help in detecting the disease,to arrive from WHO,in Mumbai,the state health department will shortly start screening passengers coming in both by air and sea,for swine flu.

The health officials have decided to screen passengers returning via the Mumbai airport from countries like Mexico,Spain,France and New Zealand. A meeting to address the issue was called by Chief Secretary of the state Johnny Joseph at the Mantralaya today.

According to health officials at the public health department,passengers will be screened for cough,fever and bodyache.

Suspected cases will be admitted to the Kasturba Hospital at Byculla. Officials said that Maharashtra had a stock of Tamiflu and had appointed a team of 12 doctors at the airport apart from the port and BMC hospitals.

After SARS and bird flu (caused by H5N1 virus),the swine flu outbreak has led to fear of a possible pandemic. According to NIV virologists,this is the first swine flu outbreak in the world.

Swine flu may be typically found in pigs,but humans contract it on a regular basis to be a common health concern,they said.

The government has urged laboratories like NIV and others to step up preparedness and virologists are “eagerly” waiting for the primer to detect swine flu. “We are waiting for the primer from WHO,” a senior scientist at NIV told The Indian Express.

A primer is a reagent in the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test required to amplify the DNA of the virus. Once the WHO shares the primer,we can understand which DNA sequence to amplify. The primers for the human strain cannot be used to detect swine flu.

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