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H1N1: Private labs to start testing shortly

WITH H1N1 influenza casualties mounting in the City, the newly set up private Laboratories here are all set to start testing swabs of H1N1 influenza patients shortly.

Head of Neuro-virology Dr V Ravi who is leading an expert committee, is visiting labs to check if they possess the standardised equipments required for swab testing.
“The Command Hospital here has already done swab testing for few samples and at present, parallel testing with Nimhans Lab is going on, they will shortly start testing independently,” he said.

Dr Vivek Hittanahalli, in-charge of the microbiology lab in Narayana Hrudayalaya, said that a team from Nimhans led by Dr V Ravi had visited the lab for inspection. “We already have a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machine required to conduct the H1N1 tests. I am sure we would get the Government authorisation and approval in a week’s time,” said Dr Hittanahalli.

Double capacity

Meanwhile, the lab will be getting another PCR machine by Monday, which would double the capacity. “Presently, we can test 15 to 20 samples in one run. However, with the new PCR machine, we will be able to test twice as much,” said Dr Hittanahalli.

The Nimhans team also visited Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMRCI) on Friday. Dr G T Subhash, the Institute’s director and dean, said that the team came to identify the place and check the lab. The lab presently has one PCR machine for research purpose but it cannot be used.

Not accredited

Dr Subhash said, “We thought we could manage with the existing PCR machine in the lab, but this model is not accredited by WHO.  Dr Ravi has given us a list of requirements to equip the lab.”  The cost involved is about Rs 1 crore, he added.

The institute will be submitting their requirements and a report on the inspection to the Government on Tuesday.  The Dr Lal Path Lab, which will only collect samples, will be sending the samples to their reference lab in Delhi. However this Lab is still awaiting approval for collection from the Government.

The Government will also set up H1N1 testing labs in four more medical colleges in the State, including the Vijaynagar Institute of Medical Science, Bellary, Mysore Medical College, Mysore and Karnataka Institute of Medical Science, Hubli and Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, Bangalore.

Four more die 

Four women succumbed to the H1N1 influenza in the State on Friday, taking the number of deaths to 58. While three died in the Government hospitals at Bangalore, one death was reported at a private hospital in Kolar.

A 60-year-old woman, who was admitted to the hospital in Kolar on September 6 passed away on September 7. In Bangalore, a 31-year old woman admitted on September 7 expired the next day. The third and the fourth victims, both 20 years of age, passed away on September 7 and September 8.
Meanwhile, 22 persons tested positive for the H1N1 Influenza virus in the State on Friday,  raising the total number of positive cases to 708. While Bangalore reported 19 cases, one case each was confirmed at Bijapur, Kolar and Gadag.

Govt to bear only swab test charges 
According to Health Minister Sreeramulu, so far 52 people have died because of H1N1 in the State. The total confirmed cases are 619. A Central team recently visited the state and expressed satisfaction regarding the steps taken by the State government to tackle the spread of the disease.
Asked whether the poor are getting government’s benefits, the minister said the Government would bear only expense of swab test which amounts to Rs 2,000. A government order had been issued to all private hospitals asking them not to charge patients for swab test. They should collect the charges from the government, he said.

The minister clarified that the government would not bear treatment expenses of H1N1 patients, but would bear only swab test charges.

(Published in Deccan Herald on 11th September, 2009; along with Poornima Nataraj)

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