Srinagar, Sep 22: With swine flu cases and deaths hitting across the country including the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Friday said that authorities at Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar have failed to operationalize swine flu testing lab set up at Chest Diseases hospital, Dalgate.
Despite spending huge money on it, President DAK and flu expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan said that the lab has failed to serve its purpose.
“Sanctioned in 2015, the lab was set up to strengthen H1N1 testing facilities and combat the emerging threat of swine flu.”
Two years on, the lab lies non-functional and no tests are being done there, Dr Hassan said. “Though the machine has been installed, no diagnostic kits have been made available.”
Dr Hassan said that the lab uses Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Test (RIDT) in the absence of gold standard Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing facility. He said that RIDT is not recommended as it gives false negative results which could prove fatal as sick patients would not be given antiviral treatment.
The lab was created to determine what flu viruses are circulating and identify the dominant strain and whether the circulating virus matches the current vaccine, he said.
“We have no idea about the disease burden in the community. We don’t know about the impact flu is having on hospitalizations and deaths,” he said.
Further, the lab was established to observe any change in circulating virus and anticipate possible outbreak and alert public health authorities in advance for appropriate action”, said Dr Hassan.
“Swine flu testing is recommended in severe cases and for those who are hospitalized.”
“The test is also recommended for those who are at high risk like too young, old, pregnant women and those with underlying medical conditions.”
“During an outbreak, testing for flu can help determine if flu virus is the cause of the outbreak.”
“Many infectious diseases have similar presentation and flu testing would solve the diagnostic dilemma for doctors,” he said. (GNS)