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Delhi primary health centres ill-equipped to handle mounting swine flu cases

NEW DELHI, Feb 7: Although Delhi has reported the second-highest number of influenza (A) H1N1 or swine flu cases this year after Rajasthan, primary health care centres in the national capital appear ill-equipped to handle the rush of patients.

According to a report by the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), Delhi has recorded 1,011 cases till February 3 this year. The government has not officially recorded any deaths, but three hospitals in the city have informally confirmed 19 deaths. Rajasthan reported 2,363 swine flu cases and 85 deaths.

“We don’t know why there has been a spurt in cases this year; the prolonged winter can be a reason. We have asked researchers at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) whether there is any change in the virus structure. However, we are prepared. We have enough medicine — over 1 lakh tablets — masks and personal protective equipment for our staff,” said Dr SM Raheja, additional director and head of Delhi’s IDSP cell.

Although the government has been claiming that it has a “sufficient stock of medicines”, these don’t appear to be reaching dispensaries and mohalla clinics which are continuing to provide symptomatic treatment.

“We do get several patients with flu-like symptoms. We just give them symptomatic treatment — medicines for the fever and runny nose and ask them to take rest. The testing facility and medicines are available only in hospitals,” said a doctor on duty at a dispensary in Chattarpur on condition of anonymity.

The Delhi government runs 260 dispensaries and polyclinics and 180 mohalla clinics in the city. Six of the seven primary health care centres contacted by Hindustan Times said the medicine to treat swine flu – Tamiflu -had not reached them.

“The dispensaries can ask the chief district medical officer for medicines. We have already written to them about it,” said Dr Raheja.

Taiwan unveils smart mosquito trap to fight disease

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, Jan 7: Taiwan’s National Health Research Institutes unveiled a smart mosquito trap capable of identifying virus-carrying species within 0.07 seconds, underscoring government efforts to prevent outbreaks of serious infectious diseases like dengue fever.

According to Miaoli County-based NHRI in northern Taiwan, the device takes images of each captured mosquito and employs artificial intelligence and cloud computing technologies to determine whether it is a potential disease vector of dengue, chikungunya or Zika with an accuracy of greater than 90 percent. The real-time geolocation data will be used to flag up potential risk areas for outbreaks.

Researchers have built an image database of mosquito specimens—each one shot 10,800 times and from 720 different angles—the NHRI said, adding it will be refined and updated with photos taken by the equipment.

Scientists can test the blood of the captured insects to determine whether they are carrying any of the viruses. Since each device costs only around NT$3,500 (US$113.60) to NT$4,000, this will be cheaper than the current system of periodically dispatching teams to make manual inspections of mosquito populations, according to NHRI.

Chen Chun-hong, deputy executive secretary of NHRI’s National Mosquito-Borne Diseases Control Research Center, said the system of smart traps is designed to alert the government to potential risk areas before people fall sick so that outbreaks can be prevented.

The device is currently undergoing trials in Miaoli and the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung before it is rolled out in districts and townships that have experienced outbreaks.

Uzbekistan wins its long fight against malaria

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, Dec 13: Uzbekistan’s success in becoming recognized as a malaria-free country by the World Health Organization (WHO), is an “extraordinary outcome,” said the Executive Director of the Global Fund on Tuesday, a UN-backed partnership to end malaria epidemics.

Malaria has a long and deadly history in Uzbekistan: in the late nineteenth century, the disease killed nearly 40,000 people in the capital district alone, and in 1943, one tenth of the population was infected. In the post-war years, the Uzbek Government concentrated on eliminating malaria, but the country was hit by a devastating resurgence in the early 1960s.

That trend has been reversed in recent years, with the Global Fund and WHO helping Uzbekistan to combat malaria, using an innovative results-based approach that put the country on the path to finally eliminating the disease in 2018.

“We have achieved remarkable progress against malaria in Central Asia,” said the head of the Global Fund, Peter Sands. “It’s a great example of commitment and a sustainable approach. The Global Fund has invested in this region for over a decade. With committed partners, every investment can achieve great value.”

A significant number of countries are now eliminating malaria: in Central Asia – aside from Uzbekistan – Turkmenistan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have been classed as malaria-free since 2010.

However, these positive indicators are set against a worrying backdrop of increased global rates of infection: the WHO’s 2018 World malaria report, released in November, showed that targets to reduce new cases of infection worldwide (which call for a drop in malaria case incidence and death rates of at least 40 per cent by 2020) are not being met, and that, while new cases fell steadily up until 2016, the number rose from 217 million to 219 million in 2017.

“A child dies of malaria every two minutes,” said Sands. “We have to stop that, enabling elimination where possible, and reducing malaria as much as we can in the hardest-hit countries.”


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