The aggressive campaign against swine flu began only in the first week of August. Why the late response?
We were not late in responding to swine flu. As early as the first week of July, our crisis management groups had started keeping a close watch on the swine flu situation. We started spreading awareness about cleanliness. Our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) campaign has been working towards better sanitation in the state and we are closing in on zero open defecation in Gujarat. We are also working on involving students of government-run and private schools to spread awareness for preventing swine flu cases in Gujarat.
No crackdown on fairs and public gathering despite the swine flu outbreak. Is it because the government does not want to hurt the public sentiment ahead of the Assembly elections?
We do not want to create panic. This is not like a vector-borne disease… The fatality ratio has come down from 11 per cent to 4 per cent. A large number of cases are being cured, so there is no reason to stop public gatherings, fairs or melas. Swine flu is not an exotic disease. Such gatherings will help community immunity. We do not want to hold people back from their social lives. It has nothing to do with the elections.
Asking doctors to give Oseltamivir for any flu may lead to Oseltamivir resistance.
There has been no case of resistance to Oseltamivir in the country. Just like the last year, the swine flu strain identified is Michigan strain, and the anti-viral has been working fine. It is effective in 75 per cent of the cases. Where it did not work was because of late diagnosis. As part of our ongoing surveillance, we work at two levels — to catch them when they have it; and to start with the anti-viral without waiting for the swine flu test results. We are in sync with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of India protocol on swine flu.
Swine flu is here to stay, so is there any planning to prevent such cases in the future or will our campaigns start only when there is a surge in cases?
Based on this year’s experience, we will carry out a death audit and see if a pattern emerge. We will also be involving government and private schools, so that teachers and children help spread awareness . This year, we also taught our doctors and others in the medical fraternity about ventilator management… We will continue with the programme and reach out to more doctors, nurses and other medical staff in the public and the private sectors.
Till 10 days ago there were only nine government laboratories across the state that were testing for swine flu. Recently, five private labs were given permission to test for swine flu. Why are we restricting the number of labs? Government labs are doing these tests for free, while private labs charge Rs 4,500.
We check all the labs and make sure they have the facilities in place. Our focus is on their safety protocol as they collect samples of H1N1 virus. Only if their safety and waste disposal procedures are in place, we allow them to carry out swine flu tests. The private labs are for those who want a choice. There is a cap on the swine flu test cost and the private labs cannot charge more than Rs 4,500. People can choose government laboratories if they want free swine flu test.