Saturday February 23, 2019

Swine flu: Is Modi-led government doing too little too late?

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Representational image.

By Harshmeet Singh

Even as the health departments reiterate their stand repeatedly by claiming that ‘everything is under control’, the H1N1 swine flu virus continues to spread rapidly across the country. As we write this, more than 22,000 people from different parts of the country have been tested positive with this virus, with over 400 of them losing their lives.

The situation on the ground

Rajasthan, Gujarat and Delhi are the worst hit states, with Gujarat imposing section 144 in Ahmedabad to stop mass gathering in order to check swine flu. While a number of people have been proactive in buying masks and wearing them at public places, the fact remains that most of these masks aren’t equipped to prevent the virus from entering your respiratory system. The pore size of many such  masks is bigger than the virus itself, making them ineffective. While the clinically certified masks are also available in the market, they cost 20 times more than the normal masks. Also, unless these masks are disposed carefully after use, the threat of the virus doesn’t fade away.

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Patients from a number of cities have also reported trouble in getting tamiflu medicine, the only proven cure of swine flu. According to the hospitals, many people are buying tamiflu without getting themselves tested, which is resulting into a shortage of drug. Since its symptoms are similar to normal seasonal flu, people have started taking the medicine as a ‘precautionary measure’ without consulting a doctor.

One of the other reasons leading to shortage of tamiflu is that it is a Schedule X drug, which is sold by  a very few drug stores. A Schedule X drug can only be sold if the buyer presents a prescription from a qualified doctor. Additionally, the retailer is required to keep a copy of the prescription for the next couple of years after sale of the drug.

Experts say that a rise in temperature would bring down the number of cases since the virus thrives in cold climate.

What is the Government up to?

The Government, on its part, has begun procurement of 60,000 units of tamiflu medicine along with 10,000 N-95 masks (clinically certified for protection from swine flu virus). About 10,000 diagnostic kits are also in the process of being procured by the Government to ensure that there is no shortage of logistics.

In Delhi, the Government has fixed the fees of diagnostic tests at Rs 4,500. The labs flouting these norms are being given show cause notice by the Government. Although Delhi has seen the largest number of confirmed swine flu cases this year, the death rate in the city is much lower comparatively, owing to much better medical facilities as compared to other parts of the country.

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Some Diagnostic centres for H1N1 swine flu virus in Delhi & Mumbai

 

Metro Heart Institute Faridabad
M I Heart & Women’s Health Care Clinic & Diagnostic Center Sarita Vihar, Delhi
Asha USA Mini Medicine City Gurgaon
Rohini Family Clinic Rohini sector 7, Delhi
SRL Ranbaxy Clinic New Friends Colony, Delhi
Max Multi Speciality Hospital Greater Noida
Dr. Lal path labs Pitampura, Patel Nagar, Hari Nagar and other locations in Delhi
RX Diagnostic Centre Dwarka, Delhi
Micron Laboratory Green Park, Delhi

 

Star Diagnostic & Healthcare centre Andheri West, Mumbai
Way2Health Diagnostic Vashi, Kharghar and Ghansoli, Mumbai
Bhide Laboratory Byculla, Mahalaxmi, Grant Road West, Girgaon, Chembur, Lower Parel and Santacruz West, Mumbai
Atharva Diagnostic Thane East, Mumbai
Chikitsa Pathology Koperkhairane, Mumbai
Darshan Clinic Laboratory Kandivali East, Borivali West, Mumbai
Rudra Diagnostic Goregaon East, Mumbai
Anu Diagnostic & Scan Centre Mulund West, Mumbai

 

Next Story

African Swine Fever Affects China’s Pork Industry

China Faces Challenges in Containing Swine Flu Infection.

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FILE - Workers disinfect passing vehicles in an area having the latest incident of African swine flu outbreak on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Nov. 23, 2018. VOA

The Year of the Pig is getting off to a rough start in China as the world’s largest consumer of pork and home to half the world’s pigs struggles to contain the spread of the African swine fever (ASF) virus.

Recent incidents, where traces of the virus were found in samples of frozen pork dumplings, suggest the outbreak is more widespread than has been reported, analysts said.

They add that the disease could have devastating socioeconomic consequences for both Chinese consumers and the global pig industry.

Latest outbreaks

Over the weekend, food safety regulators in southern Hunan and northwest Gansu provinces identified traces of the virus in pork products, including frozen dumplings.

The first outbreaks of African swine flu showed up in the northeastern province of Liaoning in August of last year.

Since then, China has reported more than 100 outbreaks from 25 of the country’s 34 provincial-level administrative units, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization under the United Nations.

Of China’s population of 430 million pigs, nearly one million have been culled because there’s not yet a vaccine to prevent and halt the spread of the virus.

 

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Slaughtered pigs are on display at a heaviest pig contest on the eighth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year of the pig, in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, China, Feb. 12, 2019. VOA

The losses have added pressure to local pig farmers, who are already be set with rising feed costs brought on by U.S.-China trade frictions.

Food scare

Chinese authorities have worked with food manufacturers to address the latest outbreaks, but it remains unclear if all contaminated frozen pork products have been located and destroyed.

Although the virus poses no risk to human health, people are likely to be one of the carriers of the disease and can spread the virus through contaminated water or waste food.

The disease is highly contagious among domestic and wild pigs and the virus is very difficult to eradicate. It can survive for an hour at boiling temperatures, days in the environment, weeks in meat or even months in frozen meat products.

It has taken some European countries more than a decade to eradicate the virus after it was first introduced to Georgia in 2007.

Under control?

Prior to recent outbreaks, Chinese authorities claimed the country’s infection had been brought under control an assertion analysts find unlikely.

“This is not impossible, but unlikely given the enormously high density of domestic pigs in China over a geographical space larger than France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands combined,” Dirk Pfeiffer, the chair professor of One Health from the City University of Hong Kong’s college of veterinary medicine and life sciences, said in an email to VOA.

Another challenge is China’s “high proportion of small to medium size pig farms with low biosecurity which don’t have the financial means to invest into better facilities,” he added.

The professor expressed concern over the possibility of under-reporting by Chinese farmers as they may not be provided an adequate level of compensation when pigs are culled.

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FILE – Workers in protective clothing operate heavy machinery at a sealed-off pig farm after the latest incident of African swine flu outbreak on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Nov. 23, 2018. VOA

China offers $179 (1,200 yuan) for each culled pig.

The dilemma lies in the balance, he said. If the compensation is too low, farmers are less likely to report. But too high, some may be incentivized to introduce the disease themselves and collect the fee.

Chinese officials have called on all stakeholders in the industry to cooperate with its efforts in stopping the virus’ spread.

Although few of its neighbors, such as Hong Kong, Macau and Mongolia, import pork from China, the epidemic still puts many other Asian countries at high risk. Vietnam, in particular, is one of the 10 largest pork producers in the world and shares a border with China.

Cross-border transmission

On Tuesday,the Animal Health Department of Vietnam, confirmed the country’s first outbreaks of the infection on three farms located in Hung Yen and Thai Binh provinces, southeast of the capital, Hanoi, claiming that all pigs had been culled.

Analysts said the epidemic will change the landscape of pig industries in China and globally.

“There will be a shift towards larger farms which can afford better facilities and that also means they are able to implement better biosecurity,” professor Pfeiffer said.

The feeding of waste food to pigs will decline because the practice is a common mechanism for spreading this virus, he added.

Deng Jinping, an animal science professor at South China Agricultural University, said he’s confident China has taken all necessary steps, including a ban on kitchen waste to pigs.

Enforcement, however, is always key for a sprawling country like China.

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But the crisis, he added, will present opportunities for the country’s massive pork industry to foster a better future.

“The butchery industry may be forced to seek a better development. Many would hope that the [long distance] transport of live pigs will be replaced by the use of refrigerated transportation. That will better manage risks for the third parties or across different regions. So, big changes to the industry can be expected,” Deng said. (VOA)