New Delhi: Behind the crowd of masked and fearful faces outside hospitals in Pune today, were the Government’s new guidelines — after the first H1N1 death — that those with cough, cold and fever report to designated hospitals.
This is in contrast to guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and agencies like the Center for Disease Control in the US and the National Health Service in the UK which have advised people with swine flu-like symptoms to stay home, “cover their coughs and sneezes” and maintain “hand hygiene.”
In fact, a hospital visit is recommended only if flu symptoms don’t get better after a few days of rest and basic medication.
On June 15, after the death of a 38-year-old woman due to swine flu, the UK Department of Health send leaflets explaining how to prevent the spread of the disease to 25 million households. More than 32 million protective face-masks are also being ordered by the department. Potential patients have been told to ring NHS Direct, a swine flu helpline, or check their symptoms on the online “flu symptom checker” to see if there is a chance they might have the virus — the department provides a careful list of criteria given by WHO.
The helpline directs individuals to promptly call a hospital if they have pain in or across their chest, shoulder, are short of breath, have swelling around the lips, mouth or tongue or have lips, fingernails or toenails which are changing colour.
With UK already reporting 31 deaths, it formally moved from a containment to a treatment phase on July 2, 2009. A newly formed helpline, National Pandemic Flu service, provides an authorisation number that can be used to collect antiviral medication from a local collection point, in case flu is suspected. An estimated 110,000 new cases of swine flu were recorded in the UK the week ending July 26. Nearly 800 people have been hospitalised.
On April 29, when the first case of death due to swine flu was reported in Texas, US, the CDC recommended frequent hand-washing to avoid infection.
Like the NHS, it, too, recommended that people who are sick stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. WHO also recommended “social distancing,” hand hygiene and ventilation as the most effective public-health measures.