KOCHI: At a time when the nation is fighting with its might and main to contain H1N1 influenza A virus ( Swine Flu), Kerala has once again proved its mettle in the health care by successfully curbing H1N1. Nationwide, when the death toll has increased to 703 and crossed a mark of 11,000 cases, Kerala has just 17 cases and three deaths. Had Kerala hesitated to act on time, it would have been yet another worst hit given its vulnerability, say experts.
Health Secretary Dr Ilangovan said that micro planning has helped them to battle the disease. “Besides, we got help from the WHO. village sanitation committees and local bodies put in immense efforts,” he said.
H1N1 hit the state in 2009. The situation was too grave that WHO declared it as a public health emergency of international concern and issued guidelines to battle the disease.
It was the first time, an international disease that landed in India. Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Malappuram airports were soon put under surveillance, explained Dr Amar Fettle, State nodal officer for H1N1 surveillance and management. “Rather than using ordinary thermometer, flash thermometer was brought in. Just a click, and the patient was screened in less than five seconds. Around 16 lakh people were screened during 2009-2010- 2011,” he said.
Isolation wards were set up with doctors and nurses who got training under the WHO officials. “Besides, every doctor in the government hospitals were also given training. A collaboration with Indian Medical Association (IMA), Indian Association of Pediatrics (IAP) and associations of gynecologists were soon established. Since mortality rate is high among pregnant women, they were put under direct surveillance thrice a week,” he said. The ‘throat swab’ collected from the suspected cases were taken in flights to a national lab in Delhi. Medicine, ‘protection dress’ and testing kit were also brought from Delhi.
Since the numbers began to swell, taking throat swabs in flights became a costly affair. Hence the state government communicated with the Railways. With the help of its commercial division, ‘Guard room’ with utmost safety was used to transport it to Delhi. But the hurdle did not end there, points out Dr Fettle.
“Soon Delhi got overloaded as it has to address the grievances of other states. Kerala entered into a collaboration with Rajiv Gandhi centre for biotechnology and Manipal Centre for Virus Research (MCVR) to test the collected throat swabs.
Soon state public health laboratories developed indigenous viral transport medium. National Institute of Virology, Alappuzha, also assured to help us in testing.
The Directorate of Health Services (DHS) was constantly on vigil, issued brochures, pamphlets, erected postures across the state.
“The medicines were made available to all the PHCs, taluk and district-level hospitals. Measures were initiated to give licence to private medicine shops which would enable them to stock medicines. When the situation worsened, overnight ICUs were opened in every medical college,” he noted.
In 2011, Govt of India launched preventive vaccination. 78,000 dosages were given and they were primarily for the health care workers. When there were massive dosages in other states, Kerala utilised it fully. Even during the Sabarimala season, the disease was strictly under control. Instructions in five different languages were issued to help the devotees.