Sunday, 14 June 2009

Epidemic Act: Medical arrests if people do not cooperate

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 13: The fall in temperatures with the onset of rainy season may create a conducive atmosphere for the human influenza virus or swine flu to spread fast through human-to-human contact in the State, even as the State government declared that the Epidemic Act is in force.

Health experts warn that the low temperatures may also aid secondary infection through bacteria, which will make things further complicated. The H1N1 virus does not survive in high temperatures (above 40 degrees C) but the virus may take advantage of the Southwest monsoon to express its potent virulence.

"So far all the cases that have been reported in India are of viral infection, which is not generally life threatening. But the cool weather may aid bacterial infection in swine flu patients. And if this happens, both the virus and the bacteria will create severe health complications, including death," said senior chest physician Dr OA Sarma.

Dr Sarma, who worked as the superintendent of AP Chest Hospital, Hyderabad, told this correspondent that there might be pneumococcal, streptococcal and staphylococcal bacterial infection in swine flu patients. "We have to ensure that there's no secondary infection in these patients," he said.

Meanwhile, the State government has declared that the Epidemic Act of 1897 is already in force in the State and those refusing to cooperate with the authorities may face "medical arrests". The Delhi State government has already announced promulgation of the Act while the Tamil Nadu government had threatened to implement the British Era legislation.

"We have been regularly enforcing the Epidemic Act to act against traders, hoteliers etc who refuse to comply with hygienic conditions. So far there have been no cases of resistance from swine flu patients or suspects. If anyone refuses medical treatment or quarantine we will act under the Epidemic Act," said Principal Secretary (health) Dr LV Subrahmanyam.

The Union Civil Aviation Ministry has agreed in principal to install thermal scanners at international airports to separate out swine flu patients. The scanners detect the body temperature and those with abnormal body temperature (above 98.4 degrees F) will be medically examined for swine flu symptoms.

The country's first thermal scanners will be operational in Mumbai in a day or two. With half of the swine flu cases reported in the country being from Hyderabad, the city airport will also get thermal scanners. "There's
a proposal with the Union Civil Aviation Ministry," an official of GMR airport said.

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