Swine flu outbreak: Centre issues fresh directive on prioritisation of critical cases

With swine flu cases continuing to rise sharply, the Union Health Ministry has fine tuned guidelines specifying screening and categorisation of suspected swine flu cases in the country.

As per the new directive, cases with higher level of clinical symptoms will be tested for the H1N1 virus from now on. Each new suspected case of swine flu will now be categorised into four categories: A, B1, B2 and C. While mildest cases will be put into A; B1 and B2 categories are for higher-level cases. The C category would specify the most critical cases. A team of four doctors will decide on categorisation and only critical cases will now go for tests.

The step has been done seeing the "unnecessary" pressure on laboratories conducting the tests, sources in the Health department said.

Initially, all samples were sent to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Delhi. After the microbiology laboratory at the BJ Medical College was upgraded to bio-safety level III, the tests are being conducted locally.

But on certain days, the bulk of pending cases is as high as 60. This has put undue pressure on the testing team.

Seeing the delay in urgent cases and huge backlog, the prioritisation of suspected cases has been taken up by the Centre. The categorisation of suspected cases will do away with a majority of cases pending presently, as most of the case fall within A and B1 category, sources said. In Gujarat, of the total 358 suspected cases, only 58 have been tested positive till date.

State Health Secretary Ravi Saxena said: "We are looking at prioritising the critical cases and clear the backlog of unnecessary tests of mild cases. Many people, who have been given Tamiflu and have shown improvement, need not be tested. We should see that critical cases should not have to wait. With swine flu panic, whoever with little bit of symptoms wants to get tested. This has created unnecessary pressure on our staff and doctors. Categorisation will definitely simplify the present chaotic situation in our state."

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