India prepared to tackle swine flu, no case yet: officials (Lead)

May 1st, 2009 - 8:56 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) India is fully prepared to tackle influenza A (H1N1), popularly known as swine flu, health officials said here Friday. No case of swine flu has been reported in India yet.
“Health screening of passengers coming from affected countries is continuing at international airports at Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Goa, Amritsar, Cochin, Ahmedabad, Trichy and Srinagar. The remaining international airports would also start this activity shortly,” health ministry joint secretary Vineet Chawdhry told mediapersons here.

“More than 20,000 passengers have been screened. As of now, no case has been reported in India, and we are fully prepared to handle any case,” Chawdhry added.

The official said 96 doctors have been deployed to man 32 counters at the 12 international airports. “Maximum counters (8) are at Delhi airport while minimum counters are at Trichy airport,” he said.

About stockpiling the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu, Chawdhry said manufacturers of the drug at a meeting with the department of pharmaceuticals officials assured them that 10 million doses would be provided soon.

He said the manufacturers have also promised that if more doses are needed, these would be made available in four to six weeks’ time. “We, however, do not visualise that as of now,” he added.

“The drug is quite effective. But it cannot be bought over the counter and is available through the public health systems. The retail sale of the drug is prohibited. It will only be available through the public health system as we do not want resistance to be developed against the drug. Any suspected case should come to government hospital for treatment. They will be treated free of cost,” he added.

“It is the only known drug to fight the disease right now. In US its survival rate is 99 percent,” he further said.

Asked about one suspected flu case of a 27-year-old NRI passenger, who returned to Hyderabad from Texas, US, April 28 and had developed symptoms of common cold, Chawdhry said: “The report (of his tests) is not out.”

Officials said Thursday that the final report will take 24 to 48 hours. But preliminary report had not shown he had any symptoms of swine flu.

Chawdhry said Minister of State for Health P. Lakshmi is holding a review meeting on India’s preparedness Sunday.

Asked about those 50,000 people who had entered the country from the affected countries like US, Canada and Mexico in the last few days, he said: “We have got details of nearly 2,000 persons. The details will be passed on to the respective states and they will be tracked.”

“There has been a considerable amount of concern at the highest level of government to ensure preparedness. We have also put a mechanism to track passengers coming from affected country or those going back,” Chawdhry said.

He said there is no need for public to panic and no cause for concern as all the authorities are well prepared.

He said: “There have been unconfirmed reports of pigs being slaughtered in some parts of country. I wish to clear that culling of pigs is not recommended.”

The health ministry official informed that in next few days several meetings of senior officials of central and state governments are scheduled to review preparedness.

“The decision of health ministry to decentralise the medical supplies has been effected. About 250,000 capsules of Oseltamivir, 18,000 PPE and over 100,000 of triple layer surgical masks have been dispatched to the regional offices of health and family welfare. This would cut short the lead time in case a suspected cluster is to be contained,” a health ministry statement said.

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