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Swine flu toll touches 4
Published on 10 Aug. 2009 12:51 AM IST
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The contagious swine flu claimed two more lives in India Sunday, taking the national toll in just a week to four and forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office to start monitoring the spread of the virus. On Sunday, three people continued to be in a critical condition and 82 fresh cases were reported, taking the total number of people infected by the virus to 864, the health ministry said. Authorities in Maharashtra and Gujarat - which account for the four deaths - were on high alert. The latest victims of influenza A (H1NI) were Sanjay Kokare, a village school teacher who died in a Pune hospital, and Pravin Patel of Atlanta in the US who had flown into Ahmedabad a week ago. Patel’s wife is in critical condition. Kokare died in Pune’s Sassoon Hospital after midnight Saturday. Ashok Ladda, additional director of the state family welfare department, said that Kokare was admitted initially to a hospital in Khedegaon village near Pune July 31. He was sent home after two days. But his condition deteriorated again and he was taken to a private hospital in Pune. He was moved to Sassoon Hospital two days back and was on ventilator when he died, Ladda said. Pravin Patel died at the civil hospital in Gujarat’s main city Ahmedabad early Sunday. He and his wife had tested positive for swine flu Saturday. “This is the first swine flu death in Ahmedabad. The patient had other complications as well. He had viral pneumonia, which is very difficult to treat. His haemoglobin was low. All these added to the complications of swine flu,” Gujarat Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas told IANS. The latest deaths prompted Manmohan Singh to tell Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad that a panel of doctors be formed to provide the people “correct information” regarding swine flu. According to an official in the Prime Minister’s Office, Manmohan Singh said the panel should also provide proper information to the media. A 14-year-old Pune school girl Reeda Shaikh died Aug 3 becoming India’s first swine flu victim. After Reeda’s death, there was a respite before housemaker Fahmida Paanwala, 53, succumbed to the virus late Saturday in Mumbai’s Kasturba Hospital. Within 24 hours, two more people died. India has reported 783 cases including four deaths. Over 500 patients have been cured. The most badly hit states are Delhi and Maharashtra. Authorities are closely monitoring the condition of three people - a medico and a pharmacist, who are in critical condition in Pune, and a 28-year-old businessman who is in critical condition in a Mumbai hospital. Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan convened a meeting of officials and experts as a team from the National Centre for Disease Control, formerly the National Institute of Communicable Disease, left for Pune. Pune is in the grip of panic as thousands besieged government hospitals to get themselves checked, almost all of them with their faces masked. In New Delhi, the privately run Sanskriti School closed down for a week after three students tested positive for swine flu, including one who recently visited Britain. Schools in Delhi are doing everything to contain the spread of the virus among students. One teacher told IANS that even a sneeze in class was now enough to send a student home with advice for an immediate check-up. Fresh cases have also been reported from Lucknow, Goa and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, revealing the contagious nature of the disease that erupted in Mexico. Randeep Guleria, head of medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, meanwhile warned: “The epidemic is here to stay for some time.” According to a statement issued by the health ministry, about 4,084 people have been tested so far, of whom 864 are positive for the Influenza A(H1N1). It said that 523 of them have been discharged. On Sunday, 82 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported with Pune (34) topping the list. It is followed by Delhi (13), Mumbai (12), Chennai (7), Goa (4), Vadodara (3), Kozhikode (2), Hyderabad (2), Gurgaon (2), Thiruvananthapuram (1) and Thrissur in Kerala (1), and Sirsa in Haryana (1). Azad apologises Facing flak for his insensitive comments, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Sunday apologised to the family of 14 year old Reeda Shaikh, India’s first swine flu fatality, for implying she may have spread the virus to many more people. Issuing a clarification, the Health Minister said “I never intended to hurt the family in any way. I never said Reeda spread H1N1,” Azad added further. The apology comes after the victim’s family had asked for an apology or resignation from the Minister for saying that Reeda could have spread the disease to 80 others while changing hospitals during treatment. Referring to Reeda, Azad had said, “One small girl went from one hospital to another, then the third and then a fourth hospital to get treatment, and without awareness which is crucial. In the process some 80 people were infected. This little girl who has no social contacts nor does she go to parties transmitted the virus in the course of seeking treatment,” he told reporters on Sunday. Infuriated by the statement, Reeda’s aunt Ayesha Shaikh said: “Our child sacrificed her life for the nation. Because of her death, so many people went for the swine flu test and have tested positive. No one wants another Reeda in their family. Everyone wants their child safe.” “We want an apology or resignation from Azad otherwise we will go to the prime minister and seek his resignation,” she added. The family also accused the Maharashtra health department for delaying an enquiry into the death. “We have filed the case but the police is helpless. We know that the police commissioner has written to the health minister asking about the health committee that was to be set up to probe the incident. But so far nothing has been done. “There is some nexus involved here - between the Jehangir hospital (where Reeda died Aug 3), Ruby Hall (the lab where she was tested earlier) and the health ministry officials,” the family alleged. Slamming union Health Secretary Naresh Dayal’s statement that the effect of swine flu in the country is “minimal” and that the situation is under control, Ayesha further said: “If he says that the effect of the virus is still minimal, then it will be minimal even if a 100,000 people die of swine flu.” Reeda Shaikh’s family has filed a case of criminal negligence against the private Jehangir Hospital where she was admitted and the Ruby Hall Clinic that conducted a test on her.

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