With nine lives lost to swine flu related deaths in the last month and a half and over one hundred cases reported in the Chennai zone itself, the Health Department is attempting to allay the rising fears of the public.
An advisory has been issued with directives to avoid contracting the disease. An officer from the Public Health Department, who spoke to TNM said that the flu is seasonal and is currently on the decline. He further claimed that it will abate in the next two weeks and that there was no need to panic. He also said that 2015 was the last time that the state saw an upsurge in number of influenza cases. There were 900 people affected of which 29 succumbed to the flu.
A TOI report authored by Ekatha Ann however tells another story. According to the report, there are definitely over 100 cases of swine flu in Chennai itself. It further states that enquiries made in 4 private hospitals in Chennai, prove the figures presented by the Chennai corporation wrong. The report states that of the 1,020 cases of swine flu in Tamil Nadu, Chennai and its neighbouring districts, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, accounted for 25% of the patients.
An official from the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, however claimed " In the Chennai zone, which includes Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur there are only a little over 100 cases."
TNM spoke to the Deans of two hospitals in Chennai, both of whom denied having registered any patients with swine flu in their wards.
Dr. R Narayanababu, dean of the Kilpauk government hospital said, "We have not got any cases of swine flu yet. However, necessary precautions are being taken. We are following all the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization in the hospital,”
Royapettah government hospital too has also not received any patients with symptoms of the flu. “We have already got swine flu tablets, solutions, children’s kits, special wards, special masks and gloves,” said Dr Elangovan, Resident Medical Officer.
The Public Health Department further claimed that there is enough medicine to tackle the epidemic. "We have 20,00,000 capsules of tamiflu across the state. So far, about 2,00,000 would have been utilised. In addition to those who contract the flu, we also administer the medicine to people who have come in contact with them recently," said K Kolandaswamy, Director of the Department of Public Health and Preventive medicine. Control teams, are reportedly dispatched to areas where people are tested positive for swine flu.
When asked if separate wards were provided for those suffering from the flu, the Director was quick to assure us that those who contracted swine flu were kept in isolation as prescribed.
"It is people who have hypertension and diabetes that we are more worried about. They will face complications because of the flu. They must keep checking the sugar and blood pressure level," said Kolandaswamy.
As for the general public, the Health Department advises them cough or sneeze into a handkerchief, to keep washing their hands and to rush to a doctor if they catch a fever or experience throat pain.
"Doctors have been already told to administer medicine to combat the flu if a patient comes with symptoms of influenza," added Kolandaswamy.