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Swine flu masquerade in Ranchi -

Ranchi, Aug. 11: Wearing a mask is no longer about concealing one's real intentions. In fact it's about declaring one's sole intention — safety from swine flu. And while most of Ranchi is hiding behind masks, the one that is most needed is out of supply.

The spread of swine flu is shooting the demand in surgical facemasks to the extent that two out of every five persons visiting medical shops are asking for them.

Medical shops are doing good business, selling masks between Rs 3 and Rs 25 per piece. Most are stocking up. "So far, I have sold well over 1,000 surgical face masks. I have placed fresh orders too," said Sourabh Roy, the proprietor of Sudhir Surgical.

Three different kinds of facemasks are available in shops — single filter, double filter and a pollution mask. Doctors, however, prescribe the N95 mask for swine flu, which they believe is the only one capable of providing foolproof protection against the N1H1 virus.

"The face mask N95 is prescribed by World Health Organisation (WHO). However, supply of these masks is limited. The masks available in the market are surgical and can offer only some degree of protection against N1H1," said Rajendra Kumar Jha, professor of medicine at Rajendra Institute of Medical Science (RIMS), Ranchi.

Jha said the N95 mask is a must for doctors and nurses who come in contact with suspected swine flu patients. These masks trap the virus in them and do not allow it to pass on to the person wearing them.

Members of Jharkhand Chemists and Druggists Association (JCDA) confessed that the WHO-prescribed N95 is not available in the market. They also agreed that the ones available do not offer full protection against N1H1, but only offer a sense of security.

"So far, I have not been able to spot an N95 mask in medical shops though other kinds of masks are being sold in good numbers among the residents," said Amar Sinha, general secretary of JCDA.

He said there is no harm in wearing the surgical facemasks, but people wearing them should not think they are fully protected.

Sinha also said that the JCDA is trying to procure N95 masks, but does not know where to place orders. "I have asked some colleagues to find out which companies are supplying these masks so that we can buy them here," he added, pointing out that even in Delhi, few are using N95 masks because of short supply.

But when there is not much to choose from, residents are making the most of what's available. "My family members wanted me to buy face masks and therefore I am here," said Sushant Banerjee, while queuing up at a medical shop in Ranchi. Source:The Telegraph India

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