Wednesday February 26, 2020

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

American Biotech Company Works with Chinese Officials to Test Drug Against Coronavirus

Trials to Test Ebola Drug's Potential to Prevent, Treat Coronavirus

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Coronavirus
An American biotech company says it is working with Chinese authorities to determine the efficiency of a drug that can fight coronavirus. Pixabay

By Natalie Liu

An American biotech company says it is working with Chinese authorities to determine whether the antiviral drug remdesivir may provide an effective treatment for victims of the fast-spreading coronavirus known as COVID-19. The Chinese researchers hope to have the answer by May 1.

Officials of Gilead Sciences, which invented remdesivir as a treatment for Ebola and another disease, told VOA the company has initiated two clinical trials among infected patients “to determine the safety and efficacy of remdesivir as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.”

The trials have been warmly welcomed in China, where the nation’s official news agency celebrated the launch with a front page article. Anxious Chinese citizens have noted that the four syllables of remdesivir resemble the phrase as renmin-de-xi-wang, or people’s hope.

Coronavirus
A medical worker holds a thermometer to check a passenger’s temperature at a checkpoint as the country is hit by an outbreak of the coronavirus in Susong County, Anhui province, China. VOA

There are also more scientific reasons to be hopeful, including the case of an American coronavirus patient who experienced a speedy recovery in January, just 24 hours after being given remdesivir. Before the drug was administered, his symptoms had shown signs of worsening.

The first trial began enrolling patients on February 6, said a written statement from Gilead, which says it has provided China with “enough doses of remdesivir to treat up to 500 trial participants.” A Shanghai-based media outlet reported having seen a customs clearance form showing that 2,843 boxes of remdesivir arrived in Beijing on February 4.

The next day, a conference dedicated to the official launch of clinical trials took place at the Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, led by Dr. Bin Cao and his colleague Dr. Chen Wang, both top scientists practicing at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing. Jinyintan Hospital has been treating some of the most critical COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began.

Gilead confirmed the trials are “being coordinated by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing.” A filing registered with the U.S. National Library of Medicine lists the Beijing-based Capital Medical University as the trial’s main sponsor and Cao, a specialist in pulmonary critical care at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, as the “responsible party.”

Research shows promise

In a scientific paper based on animal studies and published last week, scientists found remdesivir to be effective both for the prevention and treatment of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV,) which is known to bear resemblances to COVID-19.

“Remdesivir prevented disease when administered before infection and improved the condition of macaques [monkeys] when given after the animals already were infected,” said scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana.

Coronavirus
A medical worker calls his colleague inside an isolated ward at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei province, China. VOA

Dr. Emmie de Wit, Chief of the Molecular Pathogenesis Unit in the Laboratory of Virology at the Montana facility, told VOA that she and her colleagues conducted their studies and submitted their results for review “well before the world knew of the outbreak in Wuhan.” De Wit said she and her colleagues learned about the coronavirus outbreak on Dec. 31.

Wuhan trials

In the Wuhan study, participants are divided into two groups — those “who have developed more severe clinical manifestations” such as requiring oxygen, and those who do not require oxygen.

“Patients will receive 10 days of intravenously administered remdesivir. The primary endpoint of both studies involves clinical improvement 28 days after treatment,” according to Gilead. Cao reported that 200 mg of remdesivir would be given to a group of patients on day one, followed by 100 mg once-daily “maintenance doses” for nine additional days.

Also Read- Russia Allows Chinese Nationals with Business Visas Despite Entry Ban

Patients in a control group were to be given placebos. To ensure objectivity, the identities of the patients receiving the placebos are masked from the participants, care providers, researchers and outcome assessors.

The researchers say they aim to complete the trials by April 3 and evaluate the results by May 1. (VOA)