It is a formula that has worked in SARS and now H5N1 bird flu – simple, localised screening at screening stations to detect H5N1: enter human – and then fully quarantine and isolate them, in the case of a negative result, to prevent community spread.
With a cluster detected in Greater Noida on Thursday of a man who worked at a poultry farm in Bareilly who later died of pneumonia, health officials are seriously considering notifying the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi to recommend notifying nearby screening stations as well.
Circle Hospital alone in Greater Noida has four screening stations – around 160 of the total of around 4,000 at the hospital – but a good third of all of the city’s 4,000 health facilities don’t have a screen.
“In the three days after the cluster was detected, the hospital alone collected around 65 nasal swabs. About 35 of these were for three suspected cases of virus, but the results are yet to come,” Dr Mahipal Bhatia, the hospital’s medical superintendent, said.
The decision to notify neighbouring stations has to be taken by the district health department.
In the three days since the cluster was detected in Greater Noida, around 80 more nose swabs were collected for further testing, including in three suspected cases. “The first batch of nasal swabs are in Delhi and will take a month or so to arrive. Given the sample’s size, the laboratory will not test the second set in that period,” he said.
The second batch that was supposed to be dispatched early this week are now “very late in arrival”. The samples are expected to be back next week.
Circle Hospital asked three suspicious patients to undergo lab tests, which were negative. And after autopsies on all three positive lungs, it took samples from their body for testing in a private laboratory.
“If found infected with virus, we would ask the centre to circulate the test reports as well as any other findings. In the final analysis, the virus is no longer the reason,” the hospital’s director Dr P Balaraj said.
The doctors at the hospital are now awaiting laboratory reports on each of the suspected cases.