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Swine flu toll now 7
Published on 11 Aug. 2009 12:57 AM IST
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Azad says 30 % Indians could get infected With three more swine flu deaths Monday, taking the total to seven, India geared up to further tackle the spread of the contagious infection by ordering more vaccines and asking qualified private hospitals to come forward to take on patients. The total swine flu infections now stand at 960 with 95 new cases reported Monday. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the Influenza A (H1N1) infection was increasing on a “vast scale” and at least 30 percent of Indians are likely to get infected by the highly contagious disease. “We have to prepare for the coming months. Swine flu is increasing on a vast scale, and on the basis of the large population of India it is likely that more swine flu cases will occur, and we should be ready to handle it,” Azad told reporters after holding an almost three-hour-long meeting with senior health ministry officials. However, he said that India was ahead of other countries in tackling the virus. “In comparison to many countries India is far ahead in controlling the virus, and in fact one and half months ahead in this direction. We have less than 1,000 cases and the death toll is below 10. But we are trying our best to control it better,” he added. Azad said that ever since swine flu entered the country almost three months ago, the health ministry found that communication with state governments was a time-consuming affair and they have decided to rope in senior bureaucrats to assist them. “The cabinet secretary has decided to provide us some joint secretaries and additional secretaries from other ministries who will be rushed to states along with health ministry teams. Around 35 officials will press upon states to identify more government and private laboratories to handle large number of swine flu cases,” he said. “We have decided to allow private labs to test for H1N1. We have set the guidelines and have sent it to all state governments,” he said. He said those private labs that adhere to these guidelines should inform the states. “Our people could go and check whether they can do the tests,” he said. Meanwhile, the infectious virus continued to affect more people with the country reporting 95 more cases - Pune (47), Mumbai (22), Panchgani (6), Delhi (14), Noida (1), Ajmer (1) Gurgaon (1) and Mangalore (3). Three more people died in the day, taking the toll to seven. Baburao Mane, a 35-year-old ayurvedic doctor in Pune, and four-year-old Sanjay Balakrishnan in Chennai died of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus early Monday. Sanjay Tilekar, a pharmacist succumbed to swine flu in Pune Monday evening. The new cases reported in Pune are indigenous, the ministry said in a statement. In Mumbai out of the 22 cases, only one has a travel history to Austria. The six cases in Panchgani in Maharashtra are school contacts. In Delhi, out of 14 cases, only four have travel history. One case each from Noida and Gurgaon are indigenous cases. In Ajmer, the patient had returned from Dubai. In Mangalore, out of the three cases, one had returned from Britain. The health minister said they have also decided to continue monitoring and screening at the 22 international airports in the country as they have been able to detect swine flu cases at the airport. He said over 4.5 million people were screened at the airports, of whom 635 were found to be positive. “We will not discontinue it (screening). All the international airports will soon have thermal scanners as the detection rate through them has gone up from five percent to 20 percent now,” he said. He said the country has 10 million Tamiflu capsules of which his ministry has distributed nearly 7.5 million to states. “In today’s meeting, we have decided to stockpile another 20 million. We have currently 27,000 testing kits and today we ordered 22 thousand more such test kits. Simultaneously, the ICMR is examining the possibility of developing low-cost testing kits, which could then be deployed throughout the country,” he added. Talking about a vaccine for swine flu, Azad said India will import the vaccine from any country that develops it first. “Three Indian companies are working to develop the swine flu vaccine. Should any country develop the vaccine first, we will import it for our doctors, paramedics staff and health workers who have close contact with swine flu patients,” he added. Meanwhile, a central team is stationed at Pune to assess the situation and help in tackling the spread of the infection. The Maharashtra government also decided to shut down schools, colleges and also cinema halls and shopping malls for three to seven days in the Pune-Pimpri-Chinchwad belt spread over 200 sq km, where about 3.5 million people live.

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