16th swine flu case; India says no need to worry (Roundup)June 12th, 2009 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) As the World Health Organisation declared influenza A (H1N1) a pandemic, India Friday said there was “no need to worry” and has stepped up measures to tackle the virus, including installing thermal scanners at the airport. A six-year-old girl who flew in from the US became the 16th infected case in India.
The health ministry has also requested Indian missions abroad to issue an advisory alongwith the visa requesting people to “defer their travel plans to India if they have flu like symptoms”.
Indian scientists are working on developing a vaccine for influenza A(H1N1), commonly known as swine flu, by the year end, health officials said.
The WHO Thursday raised its alert against swine flu to the highest level - Phase 6. The swine flu pandemic is the first since the Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968, which killed one million people.
Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the country was “prepared at every level” to combat the highly infectious disease.
“There is no need to worry or panic. We are prepared at every level - state, district and block. We have enough stock of medicines (Tamiflu),” Azad told reporters.
Azad also stressed that all the cases reported in India had come from the US. “Given the size and population of India, the number of positive cases is very less and the disease has not emanated locally. All the cases have come from outside, mainly from the US,” he said.
“Therefore there is no need to panic. The disease is fully curable and we have enough stock of the medicine. All the cases are being treated, five patients have already been discharged.”
Outlining the measures being taken to deal with the situation, Azad said: “Sixteen more labs are being activated, 10 million doses of Tamiflu have been procured and the Rapid Response Teams are being trained at state levels. In future, these teams will also be operationalised at the district level.”
“Screening and isolation facilities were put in place well in time - all the necessary measures are being taken.”
On Indian missions in affected countries requesting the authorities there to screen all outbound passengers headed to India, the minister said: “I have already written to the minister for external affairs (S.M. Krishna). He has informed us (health ministry) that the matter is being taken up through the MEA missions in the concerned countries.”
Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary in the union health ministry, said the Indian missions abroad had been asked to issue an advisory alongwith the visa requesting people with flu-like symptoms to “defer” travelling to India.
He said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV) have started working on developing a vaccine for swine flu, which would be out by the year end.
“We will be able to develop the vaccine in the next four to six months,” Chawdhry.
Till date there is no vaccine for the flu and the antiviral drug Tamiflu is being given to the infected.
The health ministry had Thursday written to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan to provide them with the “seed stock” of the influenza virus.
“A total of 16 people have been detected with the influenza. Of these, only two cases are that of infection within India,” he said, while referring to two cases of human-to-human transmission cases reported in Delhi and Hyderabad.
Of the 16 cases, eight are in Hyderabad, five in Delhi, two in Coimbatore and one in Goa.
Meanwhile, a decision to install thermal scanners at airports to scan passengers coming from abroad was taken at a meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar Thursday evening.
Thermal scanners can point out individuals with raised body temperatures that could be indicative of a fever, a key symptom of A(H1N1), as they walk past.
Chawdhry also said that India has so far not reported “any cluster formation” of the virus - no concentration of flu cases. “This situation has not happened in India. If it happens then we are ready,” he added.
On WHO upgrading the influenza to the highest level of pandemic, Chawdhry said that India doesn’t fall in this category. “Given a choice I would not have put India (in this category).”
He said the centre has requested all states to respond rapidly whenever an infection is reported.
“We have given emergency stockpiles of Tamiflu tablets to each state. In case an infection is detected, the person can be straight away given treatment without waiting for supplies from the central government,” Chawdhry said.
He said Tamiflu would be stocked at seven places - Delhi, Karnal, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati and Chennai.
The H1N1 virus has spread to 74 countries and a total of 28,000 confirmed cases have been registered from across the world, he added.
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