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Six more die of swine flu; India toll climbs to 17
Published on 13 Aug. 2009 12:30 AM IST
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India’s swine flu toll rose to 17 Wednesday as six people succumbed to the H1N1 virus in quick succession in Maharashtra, forcing authorities to shut down educational institutions and public places in Mumbai for a week. Wednesday saw the highest number of six deaths for a single day since the first victim, Reeda Sheikh, 14, died in Pune Aug 3. In New Delhi, the health ministry asked the states to take strict action against those hoarding face masks and illegally selling Tamiflu, an anti-influenza drug. In Maharashtra, where swine flu has claimed 13 lives, the state government was forced to announce closure of all educational establishments in state capital Mumbai for a week from Thursday and multiplexes for three days. However, offices and malls will remain open, an official clarified. The five who died in Pune were Gautam Shelar, a 48-year-old driver, Nita Meghani, 50, Babu Genu Kuland, a school student, Sanjay Mistry, 35, and Shravani Deshpande, 29, a Maharashtra Swine Flu Control Room official said. They all died at the Sassoon Hospital, which has been handling very serious cases of swine flu in this second largest city of Maharashtra. As many as 115 people were found positive Wednesday - 61 in Pune, 24 in Mumbai, 10 in Bangalore, eight in Delhi, four in Ahmedabad, three each in Kolkata and Hyderabad, and one each in Shillong and Goa, the health ministry said. The new cases take the total number of affected people in the country to 1,193 - 588 of whom are at various stages of recovery, it said. Maharashtra, the most affected state, was preparing for the next stage of its battle against the flu. With reports of hoarding of masks and illegal sales of Tamiflu tablets, the union health ministry held a meeting in New Delhi and also issued guidelines for private labs, making it clear that only those that comply with bio-safety facility would be allowed to do the tests. In New Delhi, Joint Secretary (Health) Vineet Chawdhry said there was no need for all to wear the N95 mask, which is only for those who are either visiting a testing centre or are affected with the influenza A (H1N1) virus. He also asked the state governments to ensure no one was selling Tamiflu or hoarding masks. “The state governments have to come with a heavy hand on all those hoarders and black-marketers. This is a public health emergency crisis in the country. Citizens from all walks of life have to cooperate,” he added. He said that people should avoid crowds or crowded places during the Hindu festival of Janmashtami Aug 14 so as not to catch the virus.

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