Swine Flu Deaths go up in India
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10 August 2009
The number of people to die of swine flu in India has risen to six with the death of a number of patients over the weekend, health officials say
Six patients are reported to be in a serious condition in the western city of Pune, which has recorded more cases than anywhere else in India.
A number of schools in the country have been shut temporarily over fears of children contracting the disease.
Officials say there are more than 800 cases of the H1N1 flu strain in India.
The virus is thought to have killed almost 800 people around the world.
A 53–year–old doctor of indigenous medicine and a four–year–old boy died in hospitals in western Pune and southern Chennai cities early on Monday, taking the number of deaths caused by swine flu to six.
Over the weekend, three people died of the flu in western India – a 43–year–old businessman who was visiting Ahmedabad city in Gujarat state, a 42–year–old teacher in Pune city, and a 53–year–old woman in Mumbai city.
Last Monday, a 14–year–old girl became the first person in the country to die of swine flu.
Health officials say that the country had enough stocks of the anti–flu drug Tamiflu.
However, panic is growing among the people with swine flu deaths making it to the front pages of newspapers and main TV news.
Several schools in western Indian and the capital, Delhi, have closed temporarily as fears grow about children contracting the flu.
In Delhi, where some 228 cases have been confirmed, health officials say that the people are panicking “Because the symptoms of swine flu and common influenza are similar”.
As the number of flu deaths rise in the country, health officials have asked people not to panic.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh has asked the health ministry to step up preparedness against the disease and coordinate with state governments to help stop the disease spreading.
“All state governments have been asked to set up their own swine flu helplines, create more quarantine wards not only in their hospitals but also in the big private hospitals,” federal Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
The BBC's Soutik Biswas in Delhi says though the number of swine flu deaths in India was still low, there are concerns over the ability of the badly–run and under equipped government hospitals to handle the rising tide of patients.
Also, the 12 swine flu testing centres in India will not be sufficient if the number of cases rise sharply, our correspondent says.
“We need to work out a public–private partnership between the hospitals to tackle the flu. We need to take the people, doctors and media into confidence so panic does not spread,” federal Junior Health Minister Dinesh Trivedi told the BBC.
Last week, the World Health Organization announced that the first swine flu vaccines are likely to be licensed for use in the general population in September.
The swine flu (H1N1) virus first emerged in Mexico in April and has since spread to 74 countries.