Another swine flu case; No need to worry, says minister (Lead)

June 12th, 2009 - 6:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) As the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared influenza A (H1N1) a pandemic, India Friday said there was “no need to worry” as it had stepped up measures to tackle the virus, commonly known as swine flu. A six-year-old girl who had flown in from New York has become the 16th infected case in India.
The WHO Thursday raised its alert against swine flu to the highest level - Phase 6.

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.

A six-year-old girl, who had come along with her parents and six-month-old brother from New York on June 9, tested positive for influenza A(H1N1), doctors said.

The swine flu pandemic is the first since the Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968, which killed one million people.

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.”

Later, Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary in the union health ministry, said: “A total of 16 people have been detected with the influenza. Of these, only two cases are that of infection within India.”

He was referring to two cases of human-to-human transmission cases reported in Delhi and Hyderabad.

He also said that India has so far not reported “any cluster formation of the virus any where in the country”. “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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